Fire Destroys Leesburg Station Auto Wash

By Kafia A. Hosh and Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, May 24, 2009

The cause of a two-alarm fire that destroyed a Leesburg carwash Thursday night remained under investigation, Loudoun County fire officials said Friday.

"There's no determination of [what caused] the fire right now," said Dustin Sternbeck, spokesman for the Loudoun Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management.

Dozens of firefighters from across the county fought the blaze at the Leesburg Station Auto Wash on Catoctin Circle SE, which began about 7:30 p.m.

As the crews attacked the blaze, dozens of spectators gathered, and police diverted cars away from the area. Within about an hour, firefighters had it under control, but they stayed nearby into the night to watch for hot spots.

The carwash was closed for business when the fire erupted. No civilians were injured, and two firefighters were taken to Inova Loudoun Hospital's Cornwall campus for exhaustion. Damage to the property was estimated at more than $2 million.

On Friday afternoon, a tractor was clearing charred debris from the scene as investigators from the Loudoun fire marshal's office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives walked the grounds. Sternbeck said the federal agency's involvement is routine in major fires.

The carwash is next to a facility that houses a Loudoun volunteer rescue squad but does not include a fire station.

"There's no fire suppression pieces in this rescue squad," Sternbeck said.

The carwash opened in 2004 and has received numerous business and design awards. The structure was built to resemble a Victorian train station.

"It was really a very well-designed building," said Leesburg town spokeswoman Kathleen R. Leidich.

The family-owned business has won the town's Innovation and Architectural Excellence awards, and last week it received an honorable mention for the town's Ambassador Award, which honors companies that foster a positive image for Leesburg as a business location.

The operation was divided into two buildings, one housing a tunnel for washing cars' exteriors and the other a center with three bays for auto detailing. The lobby was filled with antique railroad advertising, and the wash tunnel had Victorian-style murals on the walls.

"People say they've never seen anything like this before," owner Tom Magazzine told Modern Car Care magazine in a feature article about the business. "Because of this new approach and design, people come from as far away as 30 miles for the wash." Magazzine could not be reached Friday.

Leidich said she saw the fire when she was out walking her dog and stayed to watch the fire units battle it.

"It was really a terrible sight," she said.

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