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Firefighters from across Macomb County battled a 4-alarm blaze late today at the Buff Whelan car dealership in Sterling Heights. The blaze apparently was the result of a mishap with the cleaning crew.

No one was injured but 20 vehicles inside caught fire, Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin said.

The fire broke out around 7:30 p.m. By 9:30 p.m., the walls at the northwest corner of the service area had collapsed.

Martin said a cleaning crew was using a floor buffer when the buffer struck something that apparently set off the fire. The fire spread quickly. 

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No other details were immediately available; Martin said the fire is under investigation. 

“We have about 20 vehicles inside that caught fire” in the service area, Martin said.  

Martin said the fire extended from the service area to the body shop.

The gasoline, oil, automotive parts and other materials in the building fueled the flames.

“It’s a recipe for a mess,” Martin said.


Several dozen people, many taking pictures with their cell phones, stood on Van Dyke across from the dealership and watched firefighters atop two tall ladders spray water on the blaze. Gray smoke made the air hazy.

Spectator Mike O’Lear, 66, of Macomb Township, and his son, Lenny, have purchased at least a dozen vehicles from Buff Whelan over the years.

“They have great service there,” he said.