Fire causes $250,000 in damage -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fire causes $250,000 in damage

Ray Summerlin Ray Summerlin

An Albany business owner says an overnight fire destroyed nearly a $250,000 worth of his store inventory. The burglar alarm sounded several times late last night at Bill's Vitamins. But the owner and police didn't realize it was because of a fire inside the building until it was too late.

The motion detectors inside Bill's Health Foods and Vitamins on North Slappey set off the burglar alarm at least twice last night.

 The owner and police checked the building. But they were looking for crooks-- not fire. "Looks like it's going to be totaled on the inside," Owner Ray Summerlin said. "I came up here and all the doors were secure. Of course we weren't checking for no smoke. I didn't think there would be no smoke, so we didn't go in the building because every exterior door was secured."

Summerlin was called to the store about 10 Monday night because his burglar alarms motion detector sounded. He said the alarm sounded again in a few moments, but they thought it must be a technical problem.

About 11:30 someone driving down North Slappey spotted flames in the building. Albany's Fire Chief James Carswell says the smoldering fire's smoke set off the alarm. "Will show motion. It's movement, so the detectors show it as a movement in the building. Of course from the outside it may look perfectly normal."

Investigators say an electrical short in a receptacle sparked the fire. This morning Summerlin looks over his ruined store, wondering whether he would have spotted the fire if he had opened the door.

"I was not expecting it to be on fire. I have had people kick in doors over the last 13 years, but it's always just minor stuff. Nothing really missing. So I just didn't have a clue there was going to be a fire going on in the inside."

Firefighters say people should remember the possibility of smoke and fire if their alarm keeps sounding. "It's one of those things that happens," Carswell said. "But if you go ahead in advance and think about the other alternatives that could be causing the alarm to go off, and you look at it as a complete package, maybe we can prevent this in the future."

A tough lesson Summerlin learned the hard way, and he's Summerlin is looking to find a temporary location and order all new stock, and hopes to re-open his business as soon as possible.

All his stock in the store must be destroyed because it was damaged. Summerlin hopes to repair the building and move back into his longtime location in a few months.

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