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Cariddi Fire Aftermath

Tammy Daniels

Owner Guy Cariddi, right, was at the scene as  the state fire marshal investigated Thursday's blaze.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — They were still toting up the damage at Cariddi's Auto Sales on Friday but the owner said he isn't leaving.

"We've been here for 29 years and have developed a substantial cumstomer base," said Guy R. Cariddi, standing in front of the scorched building as a state fire marshal inspected the roof. "We aren't going anywhere."

The blaze began in the corner of a bay on the north end of the four-bay structure. Fire Director Stephen Meranti said the fire started in the ceiling area behind the office in a boiler room area.

Light pours through a hole in the building's roof; left, the office window is smashed. The red car was in for service after being bought by someone last week.

"We still haven't narrowed it down yet," he said of the cause. He pointed to the roof of the building, which has gone through a number of conversions since its construction as a car wash by Cariddi's father in the late 1960s. "You can see there are different layers of roof. See the metal ceiling – on top of that is a space and another metal roof and then there's a void space and a regular roof."

That configuration helped the blaze stubbornly burn in the roof, lighting up the sky with deep red flames and smoke. Firefighters had to cut their way through the roof to contain the fire.

Cariddi's son was working on a truck in the nearby bay and fled the building as it filled with smoke. The truck and another used vehicle were damaged beyond repair as were two customer's cars. Cariddi said one had just been purchased; the other bought the week before.

The owners of both vehicles told him they'd wait for him to find them replacements. That loyalty and support has been coming in all day, he said.

"I'm amazed, we've had an outpouring of people come here today offering to do anything they can for us," he said. Among them have been fellow car dealers and property owners offering space — from the old Gateway Chevrolet to West End Auto to Dean's Auto in Adams. "Everybody has just been fantastic."

Cariddi said he will be moving temporarily down to the old Ernie's Auto Sales, across from Ernest Gamache's new building at 400 Curran Highway. Cariddi said he and Gamache have been friends al ong time and he appreciated the offer. Dean's Quality Truck and Auto, owned by Joseph Dean just down the road, offered to let Cariddi's tow trucks plug in there over the weekend until the power can be turned on.

The roof is charred near where the fire started; that bay has been blocked with plywood.

No decision will be made on the building until the building inspector and Cariddi's engineer and architect take a look at it. The building may end up being demolished and a new one put up; Cariddi said they'll take their time and not make any "rash decisions."

The fire also brought out an outpouring of municipal aid from local fire companies, including Adams, Clarksburg and Florida. Stamford, Vt., covered the Clarksburg station and even Savoy offered a helping hand by showing up with nourishment for the cold and wet firefighters.

"The chief came down and brought all kinds of food and stuff for us," said Meranti. "I guess they had a function going on."

Update: Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011: The cause of blaze was a short in 220-volt electrical line feeding into a circuit breaker in the ceiling, according to the North Adams Transcript.

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