Blooming Prairie auto business burns

Published 9:06 am Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pickups park in front of Salinas Auto Repair on Monday afternoon, when the fire was thought to be out. -- Amanda Lillie/Albert Lea Tribune

BLOOMING PRAIRIE — After Robert Salinas overcame the initial shock of his auto repair business burning down, his first thought was of perseverance.

Salinas Auto Repair in Blooming Prairie was declared a total loss by Blooming Prairie Fire Chief Dean Naatz after a Monday morning blaze destroyed the entire business.

“We’re not giving up,” Salinas said. “We’re building back up as soon as the insurance gets taken care of.”

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Naatz said a neighbor who lives across from the auto shop called 911 to report the fire around 5 a.m. Monday. Blooming Prairie and Hayfield fire departments were able to control the blaze in less than an hour but were on scene until around 10:30 a.m. Nobody was inside when the fire began and nobody was injured.

According to reports this morning, the fire restarted and had to be extinguished by firefighters again.

Everything inside the shop was lost in the fire, including seven cars that were inside to be serviced. Salinas said two of the cars are family-owned and five were customer-owned. At least two customers have already told Salinas they don’t have insurance on their burned cars, but so far everyone has been understanding of the situation.

“I have had nobody come up to me screaming,” Salinas said. “That does help.”

He’s still not sure what to do about his customers’ destroyed vehicles, but he hopes to come up with a solution as he files insurance claims.

“I’ve got some insurance, but I don’t have millions of dollars that would cover the vehicles that got destroyed,” Salinas said. “I’m willing to help them, but for now my hands are tied.”

In the meantime, the small town’s residents have rallied behind Salinas. He said several people have already asked how they can help.

“The people that I work with and a lot of the community people are coming up to me asking if I need their help,” Salinas said.

As much as he would like to accept the community’s offer for help, the shop is off limits until the fire marshal and crews finish their investigation. The cause of the fire is still unknown, although no foul play is suspected, Naatz said.

Salinas said the shop will be closed while he sorts out insurance claims and begins to rebuild, but he hopes to take small repair jobs in the building behind the burned-down shop to supplement his income.

“Hopefully the good lord will help us and we can be back in business after a couple of months,” he said. “We’re not planning on quitting. As soon as we’re back in business I want to serve the people like I was before, and I hope it will be fast and quick.”