Car fire in attached garage sparks 2-alarm blaze that heavily damages eastern Berks County home

Fire consumes the attached garage of a home on Audrey Drive in Washington Township on Wednesday night.

Fire crews from eastern Berks and western Montgomery counties battled a two-alarm blaze Wednesday evening in Washington Township that started when a car inside a garage caught on fire, officials said.

Eastern Berks Fire Department and crews from the Boyertown and Pennsburg fire companies along with Bally Ambulance were dispatched about 7 p.m. to the house at 19 Audrey Drive.

Eastern Berks Fire Chief Michael Mutter reported smoke showing from a mile away. He struck a second alarm upon arrival, reporting heavy fire in the half of the building housing the multi-bay garage.

That brought crews from the Hereford, Gilbertsville and New Hanover fire companies as well as the Boyertown Salvation Army Canteen unit.

Mutter said homeowner Michael Renninger discovered the fire when he returned from work and opened the garage doors to find the engulfed car inside.

He alerted his wife, Tammy, and five relatives in the house. They also got out safely along with two pets.

Because so many firefighters are home from work during the coronavirus crisis, the first alarm drew an unusually strong response of about 30 volunteers from the Eastern Berks department alone, Mutter said.

Crews controlled the fire within a half-hour, sparing much of the living quarters from structural damage, he said.

A restoration crew boarded up the home. Mutter estimated damage at a minimum of $150,000.

The cause of the fire could not be determined because the damage to the car was so extensive, Mutter said.

The family, whose household like many has expanded since the pandemic began, is splitting up to live in the homes of nearby relatives, the chief said.

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