NOWTHEN, Minn. (FOX 9) - A fire ripped through an auto repair shop Saturday afternoon in Nowthen, Minnesota, leaving the building in ruins and crews left to clean up the mess. Now, the owner is recovering from severe burns as he tries to rebuild his shop.
Saturday afternoon, crews responded to a report of a fire on the 18800 block of Baugh Street.
Debra Hoffman and her husband Dustin were driving past the repair shop when they spotted smoke and decided to investigate. When they discovered the shop owner was desperately trying to pull all the cars out before the fire got to them, Dustin jumped to action.
"We were like 'what’s that' and then we got closer, and we saw it was on fire big time," said Dustin Hoffman. "It was horrible. It was scary. Definitely scary."
They pulled over to see if they could help.
"I just kept trying to get everybody away and hoping nothing was going to blow up. There was a younger guy here that was running around and I asked him if anyone was in the shop, and he said yeah he ran back in," said Dustin.
The man who ran back in was Steve Thompson, the owner of Steve’s Repair, running back into the fire to get his customer’s cars to safety.
"I tried to go in, but it was too much smoke that I had to come right back out. Couldn’t see nothing. All of a sudden two vehicles come backing out of the shop," Dustin said.
"He was a servant to his customers and I guess that shows a visual example of what sort of guy he was," said longtime customer Tom Juergens.
Juergens said the shop and Steve's work are well-respected in the community.
"People knew Steve and they knew that he treated people fairly, and he worked hard for them and charged fairly and just was a friend to people who needed help with their vehicles."
Comments on a GoFundMe page set up for Steve and his family echo this, with many saying Steve is the kind of guy you can count on.
"I know the shop is local, and we’re a community and I’ve heard great things and from what I know he’s an amazing person," said Debra Hoffman.
Steve's family members said he did have some second and third-degree burns on his arms and hands, and they're hoping for a speedy recovery. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.