Wichita business hires workers who lost jobs after fire

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A Wichita business has opened its doors to employees of a local mechanic shop that was destroyed in a fire just over two weeks ago.

The fire at Fleet Maintenance near 30th Street South and West Street left more than 20 people without jobs. Jeff Westlie call the shop his second home for more than 30 years. He escaped the Jan. 15 fire with a few burns.

"I got burnt when I ran out of my office, but a ball of fire came from the top," he said. "We just sat there and watched it burn and smoke."

Since the late 1960s, Fleet Maintenance serviced and repaired trucks. As the recent fire died down, employees soon realized they were out of work.

But Inland Truck Parts & Service near K-42 and Tyler wanted to turn a negative into a positive by hiring those workers. 

"We merged with them and brought their people and most of them have come on board," said Inland General Manager Tim Barnes. "So it was a good fit for us to bring them on and expand some of our offerings and our hours."

Tuesday was the first day on the job at Inland for about 22 people. They are relieved and overwhelmed with gratitude that they won't have to worry where their next paycheck will come from.

Everybody is very grateful, and about 90 percent of them came. They're all happy now that they are going to continue working," Barnes said.

The fire at Fleet Maintenance was caused by compressed natural gas from a semi that came into contact with a heater. It caused $1.5 million in damage to the building and $750,000 to its contents.

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