AUBURN — Investigators have determined the cause of a fire at Lee Auto Mall’s Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership at 777 Center St. late Thursday afternoon was accidental.

Demolition crews — cutting a steel beam in a section of the dealership that is undergoing renovations — reported seeing hot embers come in contact with the rubber membrane section of the roof, igniting the fire.

Auburn fire crews, assisted by the Lewiston Fire Department, quickly contained the fire, which was reported to 911 shortly before 5 p.m. Within an hour, fire units cleared the scene and turned the building over to the construction team to monitor the building overnight.

The Auburn Fire Department credits the quick response by the LA 911 Center and the Auburn and Lewiston fire departments for the successful containment of the flames, which were seen shooting from the roof of the building as the first units arrived on scene. Firefighters were on the scene within two minutes of being dispatched.

The building was built in 1959 and is undergoing a facelift of the customer service area toward the front of the building facing Center Street as part of a modernization plan. The sales staff that would have normally been in that section of the building have been working out of the adjacent Nissan dealership since the renovation project began last month. It was supposed to be ready by November, according to executive partner Bill Menke, but it’s unclear whether the fire will affect that timeline.

The entrance to the service department at Lee Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram at 777 Center St. in Auburn as is seen March 1. Christopher Wheelock/Sun Journal

No injuries were reported among the dealership staff, construction crews or emergency responders.

Auburn Fire Department officials said the business was insured, but since the affected area of the building was slated for demolition anyway, there are no plans to file insurance claims of any kind.

Center Street was closed Thursday so crews could maintain a water supply from a fire hydrant across the street from the dealership.

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