‘Don’t rush judgment’ in Carter Brothers Fire

Published 12:29 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

On Monday, the State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk reported that, a cooperative investigation had developed evidence to conclude the fire at Carter Brothers Manufacturing Company in the early morning hours of July 12 was arson.

That announcement sent off a wave of speculation.

Teresa Colvin, a member of the Carter family, said she has been concerned by the “rush to judgment” by some people in the community.

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“The Carter family has been loyal to the community for four generations, and the family has given their lives to this company,” she said. “People should not rush to judgment. Reactive judgment, unfortunately, works like a charm — it destroys communities. No one is served by this scenario. The state fire marshal’s office doesn’t know all the answers yet. People should use caution against jumping to conclusions until they have all the facts.”

Paulk said the owners of Carter Brothers are cooperating fully with the investigation.

The fire destroyed the 160,000-square-foot warehouse facility at Carter Brothers Manufacturing Company at Hamilton Crossroads and damages are estimated at between $16 and $20 million.

The investigation is now all about gathering the evidence necessary to determine who is responsible for the fire so that the person or persons can be prosecuted for the crime, the state fire marshal said.

“The scene investigation was sufficient to conclude the fire to be of incendiary origin, which is a crime of arson,” Paulk said. “We are all about determining who is responsible and all efforts are being directed toward that effort.”

Paulk said the investigators are conducting interviews and following all leads to assist them in developing the evidence necessary to identify the person or person responsible.

“We will follow every lead,” he said. “But an investigation depends on a lot of things. I’ve been involved in some cases where we get leads that bear fruit. Others take longer. I have been involved in investigations that take years.”

Carter Brothers had no sprinkler system and, therefore, was not fire code compliant, Paulk said. “But that, in no way, affects the investigation into who committed the crime of arson.”

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is asking for the cooperation of the community in providing any information that might further the investigation.

“We don’t go into an investigation with a preconceived idea of what happened,” he said. “A lot of work went into examining the evidence. Now, that it has been determined that the fire was arson, there might be something that comes to light. We ask anyone who has any information that might aid us in the investigation to come forward.”

The Arson hotline is 1-800-654-0775 or report online at www.aldoi.gov.