ORANGE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A fire that burned for hours Wednesday destroyed one of the buildings at Reed & Hoppes Towing & Equipment west of Portland.
“None of our employees and luckily none of the firefighters that battled the blaze were injured or anything,” employee Dan Gambill said.
A neighbor first noticed the smoke and flames at the tow serving along Grand River Avenue about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday. Owners say they think the fire sparked at the back of the building in a vehicle but they’re not sure if it was parked inside or outside.
A quick-thinking employee was able to get inside the building and drive out four vehicle haulers, which run over $100,000 each, before they were destroyed.
As the remains continued to smolder Thursday, employees sifted through the rubble of the building, which was used for mechanical work and storage. The business was still up and running.
“We were able to salvage all of our equipment and stuff, or most of it, out of here,” Gambill said.
Ten vehicles being held for salvage or police impounds were destroyed. Among the burned wreckage was a Portland police cruiser awaiting disposal after a January crash on I-96 near the Ionia-Clinton county line. A Portland police officer received minor injuries in that crash.
Gambill married into the Reed & Hoppes family and has been part of the 70-year-old business for the last 16 years. This isn’t the first fire he’s had to deal with.
“We went through it about five years ago. It was a smaller building than this one. We lost a couple of trucks in that one, actually,” Gambill said.
Like the family that runs Reed & Hoppes, the towing business is tight knit.
“We’ve had all kinds other tow companies and their owners and operators call us up and wish us good luck and their thoughts and prayers are with us,” Gambill said.
The company is still totaling up the damage, but it’s expected to run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.