The Daily Commercial--Online Edition

Rebuilding after $350K fire


11/22/02
By JIM WITTERS
Daily Commercial Staff Writer
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DONA VISTA
Six days after a fire roared through their storage facility and offices, the folks at family-owned Lakeside RV Sales-Parts-Service remained stunned by the devastation.

But they are thankful the blaze caused no more damage than it did. And they are hard at work, selling recreational vehicles and pumping propane, operating from one of the camper trailers they own on the lot.

“We are going to rebuild,” said Bonnie McCain, who owns and operates the business with her husband, Tim. “The insurance company investigator was here, and it looks like we will get to replace new for old.”

McCain estimated damage to the 4,800-square-foot building and to the Lakeside RV property inside at $350,000.

She said fire department personnel were able to recover keys and titles to the consignment RVs on the lot. And they were able to salvage nearly all the company’s records and its computer.

McCain said property in the back two bays of the building belonged to Automagic Coach Works, and she had no estimates on the value of the property lost.

Loren Bullard, owner of Auto-magic, did not return phone messages left at his business Friday afternoon. A recorded message said he planned to be back in business by the end of the week.

No cause for the fire has been determined, McCain said. Although the state Fire Marshal’s investigator said it was unlikely it was an act of arson.

The investigator, Lt. Gloria Perrotti, did not return a call placed to her office Friday afternoon. Lake County fire officials said the incident remains under investigation by the Fire Marshal.

On Friday afternoon, tattered yellow tape still restricted access to the south side of the building. Inside were the charred remains of a motor home, an antique car and numerous unidentifiable objects consumed by the fire.

McCain said her father, Charlie Stewart, started the business in 1987, and she and her husband bought it in 2000. Tim McCain was preparing for work Nov. 16 when a call came from employee Merrill Shipes.

Bonnie McCain answered.

“She said, ‘Where’s Tim? The building’s burned down,’ “ McCain said. “I told her this better not be a joke.”

It wasn’t.

Fire crews responded to the site after a deputy sheriff spotted the fire about 3 a.m. Nov. 16 and reported it. Lake County Fire Rescue units arrived at 3:38 a.m. In all 12 Lake County units and the district chief responded to the scene. They were assisted by a ladder truck from Eustis and the Umatilla Volunteer Fire Department.

The fire was under control at 6:44 a.m. Fire crews were still at the scene when Shipes arrived about 8 a.m.

McCain said neighbors reported hearing several explosions. She attributed those to gasoline in the tanks of the vehicles inside the building.

She said everyone was very fortunate that the flames never reached the 500-gallon propane tank that sits about 30 feet south of the building that burned.