AMERICAN FALLS — A local used car dealership reportedly lost at least 43 cars, a semi and a backhoe Tuesday afternoon due to a brush fire caused by a truck for sale that had the catalytic converter stolen.
The blaze at ABC Auto Clinic, 2831 Pocatello Ave. in American Falls, ignited around 4:15 p.m.
Power County Sheriff Jim Jeffries said the fire burned at least 10 acres.
The fire did not damage any structures or cause any injuries. Firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management, Pocatello and Power County fought the blaze, containing it by early Tuesday evening.
Troy Brazelton, who owns the car lot in American Falls and another lot in Chubbuck, said his lots have had a longstanding issue with thieves stealing parts from his used vehicles. He estimates he’s had 30 catalytic converters stolen from his vehicles within the past few months. Thieves have also stolen car radios, car doors, seats, tires and batteries. He recently had the hood, grill and other stolen parts from a Cadillac returned after the alleged thief was caught in Lava Hot Springs.
Brazelton said his staff was moving a nice pickup truck to a repair shop to have a stolen catalytic converter replaced on Tuesday when sparks caused because the part was missing ignited brush in the southwest corner of his lot. The flames quickly spread throughout a field behind the lot and consumed “tightly packed” vehicles in his lot.
Brazelton, who has been in business for 32 years, said the coronavirus pandemic has already slowed his auto sales, but he anticipates the towing business he owns will keep him financially afloat.
“I’ve been in business for a lot of years and I’ve been a good businessman,” Brazelton said. “I’ll survive.”
Several people stopped to watch the fire.
“If the wind comes up and the fire grows or it changes direction, firefighters don’t need to be worried about crowds of people,” Jeffries said.