LEWISTON — A series of explosions rocked Sabattus Street Friday night as a car dealership garage went up in flames at about 8:30 p.m.
Neighbors said they heard several small blasts before thick, dark smoke was seen pouring from the four-bay garage at the back of L-A Auto at 733 Sabattus St.
"I was watching TV," said Brenda Russell, whose backyard faces the dealership. "I thought I was hearing firecrackers at first. I looked out and there was black, billowing smoke coming out of the building."
A short time later, flames were seen licking out of one of the bays in the back of the garage, witnesses said. More explosions were heard from inside the structure.
"It just kept popping," Russell said. "It was so loud. I thought, 'OK, those aren't firecrackers.'"
Fire crews were on the scene within minutes. By then, thick smoke was pouring over the garage. Firefighters who first approached the building were cautioned that there were explosives inside.
The fire seemed concentrated at one corner of the building where the siding was melted from the heat of flames. Firefighters got the flames snuffed out and then entered cautiously.
There were no reports of injuries.
The source of the explosions was not immediately clear. There was at least one vehicle inside the garage and presumably, a variety of chemicals.
While firefighters battled the fire, dozens of spectators gathered around the scene. Most said they were drawn by the sudden appearance of smoke and the arrival of fire crews.
"I didn't hear nothing," said one man who lives in an apartment next to the car dealership. "Just looked outside and there was all this."
In the lot next to the burning garage, closer to Sabattus Street, nearly three dozen cars appeared to have been unaffected by the fire.
L-A Auto is across the street from Tim Hortons, a short distance from the Hannaford supermarket.
A fire investigator was called to the scene as firefighters continued to battle thick smoke inside the garage. The cause of the fire was not known. An investigation was expected to continue into Saturday morning.