Fire burns on Water Ave.

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 29, 2003

A four-alarm fire in the building housing Summerlin Brothers paint contractors at 1500 Water Ave. could have destroyed all the neighboring buildings on the block late Sunday afternoon. But because of prompt reporting and response it was instead contained within 15-20 minutes after being reported, according to Battalion Chief Lee Cook, who was in charge at the scene. He estimated that the fire had broken out about 15 minutes before it was reported.

Cook pointed to the line on the facade where the Summerlin Brothers building joins Johnson’s Tire Service next door.

That’s where the fire stopped, he said

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According to Fire Chief Henry Allen, a woman passerby had run into the downtown fire station two blocks away at 5:42 p.m. and reported that there was fire in the Summerlin building.

The response was immediate.

Cook said that trucks were on the way within 1 minute, and that four of Selma’s five stations were involved, including some 25 firefighters.

At 7:20 Alabama Power restored power to the adjacent buildings &045; Weaver Services and Selma Hardware and Building Supply, in addition to Johnson’s Tire. Power had been cut off shortly after the fire was reported.

By 8:00 water was no longer being sprayed down on the roof of the building from the platform of the ladder truck, but a number of firefighters were still hosing down the smoking ruins of the brick and wood structure at the southeast corner of Water Ave. and Lawrence St., which was joined to the brick structure to the east on Water Ave.

Both Allen and Cook were ruling out arson at present, because as Allen pointed out, the locks on the doors had to be cut off with bolt cutters for fire fighters to gain entry. If the locks had not been in place, he said, it would have been a different matter.

Two blocks of Water Ave. were cordoned off by approximately five police cars on the scene.

At the center of the action was a ladder truck with raised platform with two firemen pouring water down on the roof.

Four other pumpers were positioned, one on each street forming the intersection.

The owner, Dave Summerlin, said that he had been in business in that location for 20 years and that he does both commercial and residential work, not only in Selma and the surrounding area, but in neighboring states as well. He employs about 15 persons on average and runs about four crews.

Except for a small office, most of the building was used for storage of paint and equipment.

Fire officials believed that a large explosion that occurred towards the rear of the building about 20 minutes after firefighters were summoned to the scene, was caused by a large quantity of paint and other chemicals.

Summerlin, who was interviewed on the street after he and others had dragged file cabinets from the smoldering office space, said jobs will continue without interruption. &uot;It won’t affect us,&uot; he said. &uot;New equipment and paint supplies will be ordered tomorrow,&uot; he added, &uot;and our crews will be at work on their paint jobs,&uot; he said.

Summerlin said he first heard about fire on his radio and rushed back to town from a hunting site where he had been doing some work getting ready for hunting season.

Summerlin, who owns all the buildings on the block, said that he was fully insured.

He said

was unsure whether the building could be salvaged. A decision on that matter would await further analysis.

All the contents were lost, he said.

Employee Angie Williams of Tyler, who was present with her 6-year-old daughter Jaycee and her husband Wayne Averett, also an employee, shook her head, saying &uot;I’m sick &045; all our equipment, 20 years worth of ladders, spray pumps, everything we use up in smoke.&uot;

When asked, Allen said that this was the largest recent warehouse-type fire, and it took a substantial portion of Selma’s firefighting resources to contain it, though another fire could have been handled.

Cook praised his firefighters.