Lightning suspected cause of pallet blaze - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lightning suspected cause of pallet blaze

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –Lightning is the likely cause of a huge fire that destroyed a building at an east Albany industry last night.

Firefighters had problems fighting that fire at Albany Pallet Exchange because fire hydrants next to the property were dry. 

Friday they couldn't fully investigate the burned building because it wasn't safe.

Business owners say there were almost 3,000 pallets inside their building. That stacked plywood with lots of room for air to flow made perfect fuel for a roaring fire. Firefighters say the building was gone by the time they arrived.

Firefighters said when they arrived just before 8:00PM, propane tanks started exploding inside the Albany Pallet Exchange Production building on Rodgers Street.

Albany Fire Chief James Carswell said "The building was gone when we drove up. When the propane tanks started going off, it was over."

Owner Milan Dubravcic said the old block and wood building was part of the original Turner Army Airfield, and he knew there was no chance to put out stacked up pallets once the fire was started.

Dubravcic said "Nobody was here. Nobody was hurt, and that's the most important thing."

Firefighters took video from above the remains of the Albany Pallet Exchanges production building on Rodgers Street. This was as close as they dared get, because of instability of the building's floor.

Water from their hoses flowing under the building foundation showed them that there could be problems with the structure.

Investigator Sam Harris said "All of this water is running underneath the structure. And we don't know if we got an old fall out shelter under there since this used to be Turner Air Force Base, or whether or not it's collapsed under there."

Investigators think lightning hit this telephone pole, where electricity and phone wires connected to the building. But without a full examination, they can only speculate.

Carswell said "We are going to write it up as undetermined. One of the possibilities was a lightning strike because it was lightning at the time."

Firefighters continued to pour water on the smoldering ruins of the building and thousands of pallets. Business owners say they plan to rebuild on this site, and will move workers to other production buildings until then.

Dubravcic said "We're going to lose a little bit of time and a little bit of business, but with the Lord's help we'll be able to recover soon."

The business owners have insurance, and say this fire will be a challenge, but they will rebuild.

16 fire trucks and 37 firefighters battled that blaze last night. Firefighters say 15 mile an hour winds blowing with that storm helped fuel the flames as well.

Albany Pallet Exchange has not estimated the cost of the damage yet, but they sell those pallets for $5 to $13 each.

Backstory-

Albany Pallet Exchange sits right next to the runway of what used to be Turner Army Airfield, a facility with a rich history. Construction on the base began in March of 1941, and began as a school for navigators.

It was named after Lt. Sullivan Preston Turner, who was killed in a mid-air collision.

Turner was closed by the Air Force in 1967 and turned over the Navy. It was closed for good in 1976 and bought two years later by Miller Brewing Company.

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