photos by Michael Finger
The view of the fire from Broad Avenue.
Apparently no one was injured in a spectacular blaze on Tuesday night that consumed a transmission repair shop in the 2500 block of Summer Avenue, but the smoke and flames were visible for miles.
When the fire first started, flames leaping from the roof of the building were visible down North Parkway. Firefighters arrived within minutes to start pouring water on the blaze, using snorkel trucks because the smoke and heat were too intense for them to approach the building. The fire was especially difficult to contain because (according to news reports) the building held cars which had gas tanks, tires, oil, plastic, and other materials that fueled the flames.
Like moths drawn to a candle, the area around the blaze quickly attracted sightseers. The fire apparently started around 5:30 p.m. and for a few minutes, Memphians with more curiosity than common sense could drive down Summer right past the flames. Firefighters and police quickly sealed off several blocks of Summer, causing traffic jams as vehicles were diverted through Binghampton neighborhoods. Although their view of the burning building was blocked by warehouses, anyone wanting a good view of the dense, multi-colored pillar of smoke — which was sometimes just as impressive as the actual flames — turned Broad Avenue into a parking lot, with families perched on the tops of their cars or standing in the backs of their trucks for a better view of all the action. It was just like watching a drive-in movie.
People threading their cars through the traffic along Broad would yell at the bystanders, “Hey, what’s burning?” Many said they didn’t know or couldn’t tell. One fellow yelled back, “A repair shop on Summer” and the guy in the car responded, somewhat illogically, “That’s cool.”
By morning, firefighters were still putting out “hot spots” but the good news is that — at last report — no one was apparently injured in the fire. Television news reporters were urging anyone who had cars in the shop to wait before driving to the building today to check on their cars. After seeing that blaze, either in person or on TV, it makes more sense, we think, to call your insurance company. That car is gone.