Buff Whelan Chevrolet dealership fire: 30 vehicles burned, service center destroyed

Janitor's floor cleaning machine sparks massive fire

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. – The fire at Buff Whelan Chevrolet on Tuesday night was so large that firefighters from 12 different communities rushed to help. 

Up to 30 vehicles were destroyed in the fire at the dealership along Van Dyke just south of 18 Mile Road. Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin said it's the biggest fire he's ever seen. 

AERIAL VIDEO: Buff Whelan Chevrolet dealership fire aftermath

"Cars are made of all plastic and foam nowadays. So putting out a car fire in the middle of the roadway now is even challenging because they just keep burning," said Martin. "We've got 20 or more cars, some of them still burning in the heart of the building." 

No injuries were reported.

Janitor's floor cleaning machine sparks flames

The fire began around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the service area of the dealership, which was closed at the time. A janitor was cleaning the floor and a machine he was using sparked the flames. The fire spread quickly. 

The burned cars are all customer cars. It's estimated up to 30 vehicles are burned inside the dealership. The damage is so extensive that the entire service center at Buff Whelan Chevrolet likely will have to be torn down. 

The dealership hopes to have phone lines open by 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. They are trying to figure out the next steps in replacing the vehicles. 

If customers can't reach the dealership by phone they can email and someone will get back to them, the dealership said. 

The dealership will provide courtesy vehicles to any customer whose car was damaged. 

“We can’t thank enough all of the firefighters and first responders who tirelessly worked throughout the night,” said Kerry Whelan, Owner of Buff Whelan Chevrolet, in a statement released Wednesday morning. "We don’t know what started the fire, and won’t have any information until the investigation is complete. However, the fire was contained in the Service Department and thankfully no one was hurt. Our new and used car departments are still open and will carry on with 'business as usual.'  We have all the vehicle inventory anyone needs. We would also like to thank our remarkable employees for their commitment and dedication, as well as the community for the outpouring of concern and support."

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About the Authors:

Nick joined the Local 4 team in February of 2015. Prior to that he spent 6 years in Sacramento covering a long list of big stories including wildfires and earthquakes. Raised in Sterling Heights, he is no stranger to the deep history and pride Detroit has to offer.