Marshals on scene at Carter Brothers

Published 9:11 pm Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Alabama State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk was at Carter Brothers Manufacturing Company at Hamilton Crossroads Wednesday and will direct the investigation into an early morning fire Monday that totally destroyed the company’s manufacturing facilities.

“We will bring in all the resources needed to determine the origin and cause of the fire,” Paulk said.

“Those resources will include those with the expertise necessary to do the job such as electrical engineers and structural engineers, and we’ll also bring in the tools that we need to make the determination.”

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Paulk said the state fire marshal is brought in to investigate any fire where there has been death, injury or considerable property damage.

Carter Brothers is a 160,000 square-foot facility that carries a price tag of about $16 million.

“And the company has a significant economic impact on a community the size of Hamilton Crossroads,” Paulk said.

“The community is served by a volunteer fire department, and most volunteer fire departments don’t have an investigative department. It takes a lot of training and skill to investigate a fire of this magnitude. That’s why we’re here.”

The process could be a rather lengthy one for the incendiary incident response team.

“Right now, we have no clue as the cause of the fire,” Paulk said.

“We will begin to look for the origin of the fire. We’ll talk with those who discovered the fire and look at burn patters and narrow it down from there. Once we locate the area, we’ll look for the fuel or heat source and make a determination from there.

“It sounds simple but it’s a long, drawn out process. But we’ll be here until it’s done.”

The fire marshal’s investigation is independent of that of the insurance company.

“The insurance company is in business to make a profit,” Paulk said. “The rates we pay are based on their loses. Our investigation is important to them because our findings could prevent fires in the future and that would hold our insurance rates down.”

The findings of the Alabama State Fire Marshal also alert other industries to potential dangers and, therefore, help prevent future fires.

Wednesday morning, several Carter Brothers employees sat around the entrance of the main office, which was not structurally damaged by the fire, and discussed their hopes for the future.

“We’re just all still in shock right now,” Jane Johnson, sales representative, said.

“We just can’t believe that something this tragic has happened again. But, from what we’ve heard, Jonathan (Arn, company CEO and company vice president) said we’ll build back but on a smaller scale.

“We all hope so. What would we do without Carter Brothers?”