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Fire threatened Wauconda auto museum
By Lee Filas | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/10/2009 3:35 PM

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A huge slice of American history could have been wiped out if not for an early fire detection system and fast work by Wauconda firefighters.

Capt. Mike Wahl of the Wauconda Fire Department said millions of dollars in vintage automobiles and priceless memorabilia were saved Monday night after a fire started at Northern Illinois Classic Auto at 25084 W. Old Rand Road in Wauconda.

Wahl said the Wauconda Fire Department responded to the working fire alarm at 7:34 p.m. at the classic auto business and, upon arrival, smelled smoke coming from the inside of the building.

Once inside, he said crews noticed a fire was burning under the hood of a 1968 Oldsmobile reportedly worth $75,000.

Wahl said the fire was extinguished quickly and that no other cars had caught fire in the incident.

He said it remains unclear how the fire started in the engine compartment of the automobile.

He said there was other damage in the building, but most was minor smoke damage. The initial estimate is about $250,000 in overall damages to the facility, Wahl said.

"But, it could have been a huge disaster," he said. "There were 30 or 40 vintage cars in there, all worth thousands of dollars."

He said millions of dollars of collectibles were saved from destruction in the warehouse.

Most notably, he said, the first Mustang to ever roll off an assembly line - a car worth about $5 million - is housed at the facility.

In addition, the facility also stored other memorabilia, such as guitars and signed record albums belonging to rock legends such as Elvis, Buddy Holly and The Beatles.

The fire remains under investigation, he said.