116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — An iconic car sign in Cedar Rapids caught fire on Labor Day.
The neon-lit car advertising Rick’s Auto Sales in northeast Cedar Rapids started smoking and eventually was in flames Monday evening.
Business owner Rick Porazil, 67, said a kid who was passing by saw smoke coming from the car and rang the business’ doorbell camera. Porazil called 911.
“From the time the kid rang the bell to when the fire department showed up, it was five minutes,” Porazil told The Gazette. “That kept it from going completely up in flames.”
It was reported at 7:47 p.m. that the car lot sign had smoke coming from the front right wheel well of the vehicle, which sits atop a 30-foot pole, according to Greg Buelow, Cedar Rapids public safety communications coordinator.
“Firefighters shut power off to the sign and extinguished the flames from the ground using a hose line,” Buelow said.
Buelow said the cause of the fire still is undetermined. Porazil said he thinks a transformer or even a bird caused the fire.
The auto sales shop, 1945 42nd St. NE, has been in business in since 1975.
Porazil said he hasn’t had anyone come and look at the sign yet, but he estimates the damage is around $10,000.
This isn’t the first time the sign went up in smoke. Porazil said Monday night was “kind of deja vu.”
The sign caught fire in summer 1998 due to defective wiring, Porazil said. He ended up taking the company that did the initial wiring to court and won due to video evidence.
Porazil said he will ask Nesper Sign Advertising, which installed the second and current car after the first fire, to look at the damage.
“They did the neon this time and they will assess if it needs to come down,” he said. “The whole front-end fiberglass is burnt, but we have to see how bad the neon tubes are and how hot the glass was.”
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