LAKELAND (FOX 13) - Lakeland lost more than just a tire shop when a local business went up in flames Wednesday night.
Massive plumes of black smoke and flames shooting 30-feet high, reached into the air as onlookers stood in awe.
"We really thought it was going to spread," Brian Martel, who owns the car lot next door, told FOX 13.
Firefighters were able to contain the fire, but not before it leveled Community Service Tires on Wabash Avenue.
It turns out that the place was something you might not suspect. Along with selling and balancing tires, its owner, Alex Diaz Tronco, was running a Christian ministry out of the buildings.
He trained and employed recovering drug addicts, the homeless, and ex-cons to work in his business.
"He put people back on the right path," said close friend, Pastor Marvis Jackson. Jackson, who heads another program in town called "Broken Chains." He works hand in hand with Tronco on various community service projects.
Tronco used one of his now destroyed buildings to give out free food, clothes and furniture to anyone who needed help.
Tronco says he is determined to re-build his business and his outreach. Even given the magnitude of what happened -- Tronco is not deterred.
"God is powerful," Tronco told FOX 13 in Spanish. He plans to use his faith to help himself and others around him get back on their feet.