Dozens of vehicles lost in early morning fire

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:15

'Suspicious' fire under investigation by state, federal and local agencies Wantage — A pre-dawn blaze at a storage lot for Franklin Sussex Auto Mall destroyed 33 vehicles Monday. State Police are calling the fire suspicious and it is under investigation. State Police in Sussex got a call at around 2:23 a.m. Monday reporting the fire on Route 565 in Wantage. Several fire departments responded to the blaze, which turned out to be a large number of cars on fire at the storage lot. As the fire engulfed the vehicles, gas tanks exploded and tires melted into the pavement, police report. One line of cars later identified as Jeeps, was on fire at the same time, police say, indicating the fire did not jump from one car to the next vehicle. There were no reported injuries from the fires, which were brought under control around 4:30 a.m. The lot is used by Franklin Sussex Auto Mall to store its extra vehicles that are not on its main sales lot on Route 23. Crews from Wantage, Sussex, Pochuck and Branchville responded to the scene. Crews from Frankford and Port Jervis, N.Y., were on standby in case they were needed. According to Trooper Christopher Kay from the Public Information Division at the New Jersey State Trooper headquarters, the fire is being deemed suspicious and an investigation has begun into its cause. The investigation is being conducted by the troopers from the Sussex Station and the New Jersey State Police arson and bomb squad, the Sussex County Fire Marshal, Sussex County Sheriff’s Office and the Prosecutors Office and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Claude Jaillet, general sales manager for Franklin Sussex Auto Mall, said the business has been receiving calls with concerns it has been at their showroom. But the showroom is safe. “It has not affected operations in any way, all departments are open, we are open for business. We still have over 1,000 vehicles available. The dealership was not affected so all departments are open, and, we are having a huge year-end sales event.” Jalliet said that the company is confident authorities investigating the fire as arson will find the person who did it. Reporter Jennifer Jean Miller contributed to this article.