Cause determined in Greensboro auto shop fire, 1 firefighter still hospitalized


Captain Thomas Sterling Suddarth

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fire5GREENSBORO, N.C. — One firefighter is still in the hospital after the roof of an auto shop collapsed during a fire on Thursday.

The fire was first reported around 12:45 p.m. Thursday at Import Knight Auto Repair at 811 S. Elm St., Greensboro.

The Greensboro Fire Department has determined that the fire started when gasoline leaked from a vehicle onto the floor and ignited when a worker accidentally dropped a portable light onto the fuel. The vehicle involved was elevated on a lift at the time of the fuel ignition and quickly became involved in the fire. The intense heat from the raised burning vehicle hastened the damage to the roof structure, resulting in a collapse.

The four injured firefighters were initially taken to Moses Cone Hospital.

Captain Thomas Sterling Suddarth was the firefighter most seriously injured in fire. He was taken from Moses Cone to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. He is still in the hospital.

Captain Thomas Sterling Suddarth
Captain Thomas Sterling Suddarth

Greensboro Deputy Fire Chief Clarence Hunter says Capt. Suddarth is doing well Friday morning, and even talking.

Capt. William Shane Boswell, Matthew Clapp and Bryan Bachemin also sustained minor injuries. All three have been released from Moses Cone Hospital.

There were six workers inside at the time of the fire. All made it out safely.

Fire officials said this is the first serious injury a Greensboro firefighter has suffered in line of duty “in a very long time.”

“It’s a very serious time. There’s a lot of thinking reflecting. A lot of thinking about what we’ve been through,” said Greensboro Fire Division Chief Michael Swails.

Investigators describe what’s left of the body shop as “one big mess.”

Salt trucks were also used on Friday to thaw a sheet of ice near the auto shop.

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