By Dave Dauphinee – of The Free Press

Arson is suspected in a $250,000 fire at Competition Motors Wednesday night which burned out the showroom and general offices and destroyed 12 new cars.

Chip Comstock, president and general manager of the Toyota dealership at 1206 Oxford St. E., said today the alarm was called in after someone heard an explosion in the one-storey building.  The service department, to the rear of the building, remains intact.

Comstock said at least half the parts department was lost.

Al Wright, service manager, said he drove by the dealership, which was closed Wednesday because of the snow conditions, shortly before the alarm was turned in.

“Everything was alright then,” he said.  “But when I got there (after learning of the alarm) the windows were blowing out and the gas tanks on the cars in the building were exploding.  The flames were jumping into the air, I don’t know how high.”

Only the walls, scattered debris and the hulks of a few cars remain of the showroom following a fire late Wednesday at Competition Motors (London), Ltd., 1206 Oxford St. E. Damage was estimated at $250,000. The fire also destroyed cars parked near the building. Armored personnel carriers from CFB London were dispatched to assist firemen. (Sam McLeod - The London Free Press)

Only the walls, scattered debris and the hulks of a few cars remain of the showroom following a fire late Wednesday at Competition Motors (London), Ltd., 1206 Oxford St. E. Damage was estimated at $250,000. The fire also destroyed cars parked near the building. Armored personnel carriers from CFB London were dispatched to assist firemen. (Sam McLeod – The London Free Press)

Wright said the 25 employees would be off work a few days until temporary arrangements had been made to get the dealership back into operation.

Comstock, who was mapping out strategy in the charred hulk of his building this morning, said he expects to have a mobile office set up on the lot soon and relocate the parts department close by.  About half the parts were lost in the fire and the rest must be sorted, he said.

Comstock said he expects to have temporary arrangements completed within a couple of weeks and he should be rolling again in three to four months.

In addition to the destroyed cars and facilities, Wright had another concern.  He had to cancel about 150 servicing appointments for today and Wednesday and he was expecting some stock orders to arrive from outside the city today.

Comstock said the building and contents were about 90 per cent covered by insurance.