Crews battle business fire

Crews from several departments are battling a fire at a car repair shop in Grand Traverse County.

The fire started at MDS Automotive on Blackman Road in Kingsley around 10am. The owners of the business, Mike and Melissa Schichtel, tell 7&4 News an overhead light fell, causing a gas tank to catch fire. Two employees were inside the building at the time and tried to put the fire out, but several explosions forced them to evacuate.

The repair shop has been in business since 1980.

Owner of MDS Automotive, LLC Mike Schictel says, "It got out of control faster than anyone could do anything.... "

The family business that once stood strong and sturdy for more than 30 years is now barley recognizable. Owners Mike and Melissa Schichtel say the blaze started after an over-head work light fell, causing a nearby gas tank to catch fire.

Mike says, ''We tried to use fire extinguishers, nothing happened... there were three to five explosions between fuel tanks on cars in there and the welding tanks..."

Fortunately the two employees working at the time got out safely and immediately called emergency crews who rushed to the scene.

Grand Traverse Rural Fire Department Chief Michael Stinston says, "It was throughout 75% of the building... it was already to a point where we couldn't attack it on an interior basis... we did what we call a defensive attack, in other words we fought the fire form the outside and they did an elevated stream, got it knocked down and then we went inside and took care of the hot spots..."

It took some serious manpower to battle the dangerous fire, 4 surrounding fire departments, more than 40 firefighters and nearly 20-thousand gallons of water. Stinston says, "You go into an auto mobile repair facility, you're talking about all kinds of things that can explode, things like torches, oxygen settling, stored flammable liquids, any number of things that can explode in a fire in a facility like this..."

After two hours of fighting the fire, the flames and smoke finally started to clear, revealing a disturbing sight of destruction and loss. "I think Iâ??m probably in shock right now...with the business and what's inside there, and inventory probably about 400 to 500 thousand dollars worth of loss..."

The Schichtels do have insurance and plan to rebuild, but in the meantime, they're keeping a positive outlook and counting their blessings. Mike says, "Itâ??s hard but like I said, Iâ??m just glad no one got hurt. We can make more money and rebuild and do what we have to do, but we couldn't replace a lifeâ?¦â??

The Schichtels don't know how long it will take to rebuild the business and they want to thank their customers for their patience and loyalty.

If you would like to make a donation or help the family in anyway, you can contact Melissa Schichtel at (231) 313-7346.