Fire at car-storage facility linked to teenagers’ cigar

SIDNEY — Teenagers who carelessly smoked a cigar sparked a fire that leveled a century-old building Friday night, officials said, destroying an inventory of classic-car parts and dealing a business its second major blow in 14 months.

But firefighters were able to save nine automobiles and a number of mechanics’ tools from the parts and service center of Whitaker & Sons Inc. Buick Chevrolet, said James Olmstead, Delaware County’s deputy fire coordinator. “Some of them were driven out, and some of them were pushed out, but all the cars on the ground floor were saved,” Olmstead said.

They were not, however, able to save the four-story business, a former silk mill a local family has owned for generations. Nor were they able to save 1920s- and ’30s-era car parts stored on upper floors, he said. Two boys discarded a cigar in a cardboard box in an enclosed ramp to the business Friday, triggering a blaze that burned for 35 to 40 minutes before it was reported at 5:58 p.m., Olmstead said.

No injuries were reported.

Chemicals used in the auto-repair business fueled the flames, which shot from windows into the evening. Demolition of the building took about four hours after the fire was extinguished; firefighters were on the scene until 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

The boys, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old whose names were not released, face charges of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. They admitted smoking near the business before the blaze, Olmstead said.

The business was heavily damaged in the June 2006 floods, he said, meaning many tools inside the business Friday had replaced those lost a year earlier.