MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala.- It's been one week since a fire broke out in downtown Arab, displacing several businesses and apartment tenants. Authorities have ruled the fire accidental.
Fire chief Ricky Phillips says activating the Marshall County Arson Taskforce made for a quick turn around in the investigation.
“Due to the size of the structure as well as the number of individuals involved (both residents and business owners), and the complexity of the scene, I activated the Marshals County Arson Task Force and made a request to the state fire marshal’s office for assistance. We were able to accomplish the many tasks involved in the investigation within a few hours, where it would have taken several days had we chose to work the investigation with only local resources and personnel," says Chief Ricky Phillips.
Investigators were able to determine that the fire was accidental in nature and started from an electrical short or failure in a circuit that provided power to the HVAC system for the businesses, starting a fire inside the rear wall of the building and spread into the area between the first and second floors.
Also, located in the same area was a natural gas pipe that was also inside the wall that failed and provided more fuel for the fire. The Arab Fire Department called in back up and battled this fire in downtown for six hours.
The building owners rent the downstairs area to business such as a computer repair store, counseling service, engineering firm and a real estate company. They also rent several apartments located on the second floor.
Owner Benny Hyatt says cleaning and restoration crews are on-site removing debris and stripping the building to before starting the rebuilding process.
"Once the cleaning is done the rebuild process will go pretty fast but that probably won't start for another week," says Benny Hyatt.
While Wyatt does carry insurance on the building he says this fire is hitting all involved pretty hard.
"While the building is shut down, we're losing rent. We're not getting any income off of it until we get it reopened," says Hyatt.
Hyatt sympathizes with the business owners and tenants who are displaced. He says he is hopeful that restoration and rebuilding won't take too long.
"In maybe a month or so we will be able to put people back in apartments and everything will be nice and clean and this will be a distant memory we hope," says Hyatt.
Chief Phillips says there is smoke and water damage throughout the building but only a portion had structural damage.