A quick response by fire fighters prevented a blaze that started in a car at Harrigan Ford in Yallah from destroying the entire complex on Thursday night.
Emergency services were called to reports of a blaze at the large motor dealership near the Princes Highway about 9pm.
The first crew to respond found a large amount of black smoke billowing from the rear of the premises, Fire & Rescue NSW Illawarra duty commander Inspector Chad Wallace said.
"The response was then escalated to four fire trucks, two rescue trucks, a ladder platform, hazardous materials response unit and the duty commander for the Illawarra," he said.
"The first arriving crews were hampered by the fortified gates. They made entry using power saws and hydraulic equipment.
"They then concentrated their efforts on an aggressive fire attack on two cars that were alight.
"A building was also alight adjacent to those cars."
Insp Wallace said the fire crews from Dapto and Albion Park quickly brought the car fires under control.
"Wearing their protective gear and again using power tools to cut through roller doors they were able to get into the building and hold the fire to an area of about 20 square metres," he said.
"That prevented it spreading to the rest of the 1000sq/m complex.
"They brought it under control in 30 minutes and the fire was fully extinguished an hour later."
Insp Wallace visited the site on Friday morning and said NSW Police were now in control of the site as a crime scene.
"Fire investigators are working alongside the Police Crime Team to ascertain a cause and origin to pinpoint exactly how and why the fire started" he said.
Insp Wallace said he wanted to give special mention to the first arriving firefighters who saved a massive building and the associated infrastructure.
He said the fire could have had a major economic and employment impact if it had destroyed one of the region's largest car yards.
"They saved it because they got in quickly and the right tactics and strategies were used in fighting the fire from the outside and internally," he said.
"That meant they were able to cut the fire off because it spread too far."
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