Fire ravages Carter Bros.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Features Editor

HAMILTON CROSSROADS – A Tuesday morning fire ravaged a substantial portion of Carter Brothers Manufacturing Company, one of the nation’s largest go-cart manufacturing plants, but no injuries were reported as a result of the blaze.

Johnny Gibson, president of the Pike County Firefighters Association, said the cause of the blaze has not been determined but the fire is believed to have originated in the powder coating area of the plant.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Gibson said the fire started around 10:45 a.m. and 12 fire-fighting units from the area worked the fire until 1:45 p.m. Two units, Hamilton Crossroads and Ariton volunteer fire departments, remained on-site throughout the night as a preventive measure.

"Any time there is a fire in a manufacturing plant there is potential for danger and it has to be treated as a hazard," Gibson said. "There was section of the plant that contained flammable materials – fuels, gases, acetylene – and, for that reason, the area had to be evacuated. Thankfully, there was no problem of that nature, but we had to treat it as a potential hazard because if something does happen,

you don’t have time to move people then."

Gibson said residents of several houses in the nearby area were also asked to evacuate and traffic along Highway 231 near Hamilton Crossroads was re-routed

"Any time you have vehicles moving through an area where there is a potentially hazardous situation, you compound the problem," Gibson said. "The best, and safest, thing we could do was keep the traffic out of the area."

Brundidge Police Chief Moses Davenport said traffic was closed along Highway 231 at points north and south of Hamilton Crossroads.

"We re-routed traffic off Highway 231 along Highway 125 through the back roads and back to Highway 231 there at Sholts Tavern," Davenport said. "McWaters Schoolhouse Road was one of the roads that took the traffic and it was not suitable for those big trucks. They pretty much tore that road up. We also closed the old 231 highway that runs through Hamilton Crossroads. It might have been a inconvenience for the motorists but it was for their protection."

The worst case scenario did not happen. The fire was kept away from the Carter Brothers welding shop where the flammable materials were housed, but the fire completely destroyed the 55,000-square foot manufacturing and assembly plant, said Ryan Daugherty, vice-president of sales and marketing at Carter Brothers.

"Around 10:40, one of the workmen in the powder coating (painting) area saw smoke and then saw flames," Daugherty said. "We immediately sent out an order to evacuate and everyone was outside quickly. Our evacuation plan worked, and thankfully, no one was injured. But, once everyone was out of the building, the fire spread quickly through the plant. Everything under the roof of that building is gone. It’s a total loss."

The welding shop received some damage but the office building was virtually unscathed, due to the defensive efforts of the fire fighters.

"The water supply was a problem," said Gibson. "Not long after we were on the scene, we realized that the volume of water wasn’t there for us to

fight the fire offensively. So, our efforts became defensive in an attempt to keep the fire out of the other buildings. We were successful in beating the fire back off the office, and, of course, we were fighting all the time to keep the fire off the welding shop."

Carter Brothers was scheduled to close at noon Tuesday for the holidays, so most of its seasonal orders for go-carts had been filled.

The fixed inventory warehouse was not affected by the fire and Daugherty said the company would probably even be able to fill an order for go-carts that came in Tuesday.

Carter Brothers Manufacturing Company sells between 30,000 and 40,000 go-carts on an annual basis and employs between 150 and 200 workers.

Fire departments responding to the fire were Hamilton Crossroads, Brundidge, Springhill, Five Star, Goshen, Troy, Ariton, Level Plains, Marley Mills, Louisville, Ft. Rucker and Goodman.

Also assisting were the Brundidge Police Department, the Pike County and Coffee County sheriff’s departments, the Alabama State Troopers, Haynes Ambulance Service and the Ariton and Skipperville rescue units.

Harvey Kellogg, chief of the Hamilton Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department, said he would like to express his appreciation to all of those who responded to fire.

"We needed them and they came and did an outstanding job," Kellogg said. "We appreciate their efforts and thank them for all they did. We would

also like to thank Larry Davis, Pike County EMA director. I can’t say enough about the role he played. We turned around several fire departments when we saw we had the fire under control and we want to also thank them for their willingness to respond to our need."