East St. Louis auto repair shop gutted by fire; several cars destroyed

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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – An overnight fire destroyed an East St. Louis auto repair shop along with multiple cars that were in the business when the fire took place.

“When I started out, you know, it was like one of my dreams to have my own shop. Now just to see it go up in flames, in your face, is really tough,” said Johnny Nance, owner of Southend Auto Repair on Doctor M.R. Lemons Boulevard.

Nance owned the shop for a decade but now everything is gone.

Nance said a friend called him a little before midnight on Tuesday to tell him about the fire.

“I worked hard for everything in here. Now you just look at it; everything’s gone, man. All my hard work is just gone down the drain, you know, it just seems like,” Nance said.

East St. Louis firefighters rushed to the business on doctor M.R. Lemons Boulevard but the flames were too intense to save the shop.

Nance said a total of nine vehicles were destroyed, including four that burned up in the fire.

One of the vehicles that burned, a Dodge Journey, belonged to Nicole Moore’s 70-year-old mother.

Nicole said that was the only vehicle for her, her mother, and her three kids.

“Everybody is sad. You know, my mom is devastated. She’s hurt by this because now she has to start completely over,” Moore said.

Nance said he was at the shop just hours before he got the call about the fire and nothing was wrong. He’s got no idea what could have started the fire. He hopes to rebuild but that seems a long way off.

“Where I’m going to go from here I don’t know, you know? It’s a waiting game now, I guess,” he said.

East St. Louis Fire Chief Jason Blackmon said the cause of the fire is still under investigation and that the state fire marshal has been called in to help.

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