ENFIELD, Conn. — A massive fire tore through a family-owned car dealership that's been a staple of the Enfield community for nearly 50 years.
Officials said that the report of the fire at Artioli Chrysler Dodge Ram center on Freemont Road came in just after 8 a.m.
When crews first arrived on the scene they saw the smoke and flames and got to work. They worked for hours to put out the flames, but sadly the building and cars inside are destroyed.
"First initial crews tried to put the fire out in the service bays, but the fire was too heavy and it actually moved into the showroom," said Thompsonville Fire Chief David Deskis.
Mutual aid was called in from Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Suffield, and Somers including other surrounding fire stations.
Thick black smoke and flames were seen shooting out of Artioli Chrysler Dodge Ram car dealership Friday morning.
The smoke was so thick, that parts of Enfield Street couldn't be seen from just feet away.
An employee at the auto dealership was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and a minor burn. A firefighter sustained minor injuries.
The fire broke out just as the Martell sisters, both longtime customers, said they were supposed to be inside picking up their car.
"I was running late this morning and when I got on the highway I saw a bunch of smoke," said Megan Martell.
"I feel horrible they’re such a great family we’ve been with them for over 20 years, my parents bought cars and we bought cars," said Barbara Martell.
The dealership is a family-owned business and has been open since 1975. Owner Bob Artioli said it's still unclear what caused the fire, but his staff did their best to try and save the building.
"Our employees were very heroic they tried to put the fire out but it was too overwhelming," said Artioli.
"The building had a lot of storage items in there and it contributed to the fire," said Deskis.
When the building first went up in flames, the Artioli family said they wanted to save something, so they went and grabbed an American Flag hanging from the flag pole out front.
"The flag means a lot to us, for our country and what it stands for. The fire started in the back so we were just trying to get what we could," said Artioli.
Fire officials said the building is a total loss, but the business itself is planning to open its doors again.
"There’s not too many family, one location places left that’s what makes us go. It's just a building we can build that back," said Artioli.
"I know they’ll overcome this, they'll pull together they'll come back," said Martell.
Deskis said the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) was also called in to take a look at the area due to the extensive amount of fluids on the ground.
"The structural integrity of the building is a danger to people right now," said Deskis. "People are not allowed in the building. It's a total loss."
Enfield Street (Route 5) in Enfield is closed between Elm Street and Brainard Road. Officials said they expect the road to be opened by rush hour.
The cause of the fire is under investigation and it's still unclear how many cars were damaged.
Jennifer Glatz is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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