Today’s news:

Whitestone auto shop reopens after big fire

TimesLedger Newspapers

A two-alarm blaze that destroyed much of a Whitestone auto body shop over the weekend remained under investigation by fire marshals Tuesday, a Fire Department said, but the damage did not stop the business owners from reopening in an adjoining area less than 36 hours later.

“We are not giving up that easily,” said Whitestone Collision owner John Kapsalis, while standing outside the charred building Sunday.

Firefighters were called to 14th Road and 150th Street at about 11:15 p.m. Saturday, and the first units were on scene within three minutes and 15 seconds, fire officials said.

The blaze quickly escalated to a second alarm, and more than 100 firefighters arrived to help battle flames that were visible to Whitestone residents several blocks away, the spokesman said.

Devon O’Connor, founder of the Welcome to Whitestone civic group, said he got a call about the fire and headed over to the auto body shop.

“At first, I couldn’t tell what was on fire. I first thought it was the restaurant Villagio’s, but then I got closer and saw it was coming from the back of the body shop,” he said.

“I live four blocks away and when I left my house I was able to see smoke and heard so many sirens,” O’Connor added.

Some of New York’s Bravest were stationed on the business’ roof, while others worked at the back of the shop with circular saws, O’Connor said.

“The firefighters were amazing. They were all so organized,” he said.

Kapsalis said he also rushed over to his three-year-old business and soon after the fire was dying down. The FDNY spokesman said the blaze was considered under control at 12:20 a.m. and two firefighters had suffered minor injuries.

“The fire ravaged the entire shop area,” Kapsalis said, adding that numerous vehicles were also destroyed.

Kapsalis did not have a monetary estimate Sunday of the damage. Instead, he focused on reopening Monday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the annex that borders the business on the western side.

“We will continue to serve our community. This will not bring us down,” Kapsalis said.

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com by phone at 718-260-4589.

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