ST. BERNARD PARISH, La. -- A warehouse with multiple business inside erupted into flames Wednesday after what may have been a defective ATV caught fire.
"My son rents the building out to a motor repair shop out in the front," St. Bernard Parish resident Joseph Bellande said.
Bellande says his son's secretary and husband pulled up to the building shortly before 2 p.m. and noticed a Polaris ATV in the motorcycle shop on fire.
"The Polaris was glowing red! I mean cherry red!" Bellande said. "All of a sudden, they called the fire department. And they backed off. And then it exploded."
Firefighters arrived shortly after and they were met by a blaze surrounding several flammable and explosive objects.
"Aerosol cans, paint cans started exploding in the building," Bellande said. "They tell me it was like gun shells going off."
"You have a heavy fuel load with a lot of the tires in there and fuel and everything that was burning," Chief Thomas Stone with the St. Bernard Fire Department said.
When the fire broke out, one man was inside his apartment on the top floor.
"He was sleeping in the upper apartment. He was unaware of the fire," Bellande said.
Bellande says people nearby screamed, getting his attention and telling him to escape.
"If he would not have been warned ... He was sleeping up there, I think he would've probably perished," Bellande said.
While Bellande did not know the particular model of the ATV, Eyewitness News checked Polaris's website and noticed more than 50 of its vehicle models are currently on the recall list. The website says vehicle engines can misfire. Temperatures from the exhaust and nearby components can get too hot, causing parts to melt.
"Imagine if someone had been driving that. Or if it had been in someone's house. And if it would've happened at night," Bellande said.
"Evidentially, he was a great repair shop cause he had a lot of great equipment in there," the chief said. "He was aware of the recalls. It's under investigation, but it just goes to show ya that anytime you're dealing with electrical equipment, you're dealing with fuel and things like that you just have to be careful."
Local and state agencies will be investigating the fire. It is unclear if the engine of the ATV was actually on at the time. According to Polaris, they have received 14 reports nationwide of ATV's catching fire.
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