Community helps Salem auto shop after two workers get injured

The damage done by the accident will cost an estimated $700,000. 
Photo by Shawn Nowlin

It was around 4:15 p.m. on June 6 when a static ignition caused a fire at Professional Auto Towing. Located at 711 Kessler Mill Road, the blaze happened when employees were draining gasoline from a vehicle on a lift. Both individuals were immediately taken to Roanoke Memorial Hospital and were released the next day after tests revealed no serious injuries.

Several pieces of equipment, including personal tools owned by employees, were lost in the fire. Salem Fire Chief John Prillaman said firefighters were able to save some, but not all, of the personal items. According to the fire marshal’s office, an estimated $700,000 in damages was caused.

Growing up, Philip Christian spent a lot of time at Professional Auto Towing with his dad, Butch, and grandfather, Dennis. “This is a family business, so I’ve been affiliated from as long as I can remember. We pretty much do everything here. From oil changes to car inspections, you name it. Essentially everything in the shop was damaged on that day. A few cars were even burned because of the fire,” he said.

Christian added, “we’ve never had an incident like this. Although the damage was noticeable, I understand that it could have been significantly worse.”

Xtensive Automotive in Roanoke held a car show last month to help cover some of the damages after hearing what happened. Interested individuals who would also like to make a contribution may do so by visiting

The word resiliency is defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” Christian thinks that is an appropriate word to describe Professional Auto Towing. Not only did it take weeks before the auto shop was able to once again perform car inspections; for some employees, it took even longer to emotionally get over everything that happened.

“The support that the community has shown us has been nothing short of sensational,” Christian said. “Not every community would rally behind a business like ours. For that, we are all very grateful.”

Employees at Professional Auto Towing understand that no business can thrive without the support of the community. The past few weeks, however, have given those words an entirely new meaning to all of them.

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