COVINGTON -- A Thursday night fire that broke out at Ginn Motor Company caused more than $100,000 in damage.
It took firefighters more than four hours to get the blaze under control. Capt. Tony Smith with Covington Fire Department said the fire originated somewhere near the parts service facility, likely in a file room above the service area.
"We have not determined what caused the fire yet, but we do believe the fire was accidental in nature," Smith said Friday morning. "We had a lot of smoke damage and a lot of water damage, but the actual fire damage was somewhat minimal due to the sprinkler system."
The fire was reported at around 9 p.m. by a passing motorist on I-20 who saw smoke coming from the building located on Access Road, as well as by someone who had stopped by the lot to look at cars, Smith said. Employees had vacated the premises at about 7 p.m.
The fire was located in what firefighters refer to as a void space above the ceiling tile and below a mezzanine, so it was difficult to access, Smith said.
"The mezzanine started to give way and we were not able to put anybody on the mezzanine, so we had to be creative in finding tactics of how to fight it to keep everybody safe," he said.
The fire was under control by about 1 a.m. and units cleared the scene by 2:30 a.m.
Smith said cars belonging to customers that were being serviced may have smoke damage. Some equipment and a lot of paperwork were damaged, as well as damage to the building.
Owner Billy Fortson said the sales operation is up and running but parts service and the body shop remained closed Friday. He hoped it would be open by today.
It's hard to determine how much equipment was damaged because much of the equipment runs on air pressure or electricity, and neither is available right now, he said. Fortson estimated the fire did at least $100,000 in damage, not including computer equipment. Fortson said he did not have a final estimate on damages as of Friday afternoon.
Any impact to customers' cars would be limited to smoke damage, he said.
"Any damages we will surely take care of. Fortunately, there were very few cars in there," he said.
The building does not have a fire alarm. Under Georgia code, certain facilities are not required to have fire alarms if a sprinkler system is in place. However, Smith said the fire marshal's office will look into changing the local ordinance to require both.
"We were very grateful the building had a sprinkler system. Although it did have some water damage, it held the fire in check until we were able to get there and put it out. That's a good support of why sprinkler systems are important," he said.
In other news, the visitor's center in Social Circle caught fire Friday morning on or near the roof. The building was empty and no one was hurt, reported Mike Miller, Better Hometown manager.
Damage is believed to be limited to smoke and water. The cause of the fire is undetermined.
"The contents of the Heritage Museum were saved and moved to another building for safe keeping, cleaning and restoration. We expect to be up and running in a temporary space within the next few days," Miller said.
Anyone who needs to contact the Better Hometown office can do so by calling Miller's cell phone at 706-540-2764 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.