RECTOR, AR (KAIT) - Officials with the Rector Fire Department told Region 8 News Sunday insurance agents for the Rector Pallet Company will be in town early this week to assess damage sustained from a major fire Saturday night. Rector Fire Chief Houston Bowden said it may be a week before the investigation reveals how the fire started, but Assistant Fire Chief Steven Sigsby said electrical failure may be one possibility.
"That is an area where the electrical panels come through to service the building and I'm sure that's an area the insurance adjusters and investigators will be looking at when they arrive on scene first of the week," said Sigsby.
The fire started Saturday night at around 6:30 at the Rector Pallet Company in downtown Rector. Upon arrival, firefighters reported heavy smoke rolling out of the building. Rector called for assistance from the Piggott Fire Department, Marmaduke Fire Department, Kennett Fire Department and Northeast Greene County.
"We started releasing units around between 9 and 10 o'clock. We stayed on the scene until 12:30, between 12:30 and 1 o'clock when the storm started," said Bowden. "We kept a watch on it all morning long so there was somebody here just about all night just to keep a watch on things."
Bowden said the contents of the building made it difficult for firefighters to get the fire contained. The pallet company is filled with wood products.
"With this amount of wood we had a large fire load. I mean, basically, it's just a lot of product for consumption," said Bowden.
The Rector Pallet Company is a family run business. Charles Davis and his father have been operating out of the building 2 years.
"In talking to the owner, basically there's some minor equipment inside this front area. There's an apartment in this front area for a family member. It was totaled. All belongings are gone. Lots of wood products," said Bowden.
Davis told Region 8 News he'd like to rebuild and saw no problem in being able to stay in business. He said several pieces of equipment were not damaged in the fire.
"The back of the building, as you can tell, is pretty much salvaged. There's a little bit of damage to this front, but I'm sure before long, they can get this operation back up and going," said Bowden.
"We've assessed all the equipment this morning and he feels everything is fine in shape. The Marmaduke Fire Department had their crews set up on this side of the building and protected his pallet operation while trying to slow down the fire from the original main structure," said Sigsby.
Sigsby told Region 8 News the building had been part of the downtown area since before World War II. Residents, Sigsby said, drive by the building every day on their way to work.
"It was a full service lumber yard. They build lumber here, brought in logs and manufactured their own lumber in the early days," said Sigsby.
Sigsby said he remembered the days when he was a child. After his father returned home from the war, he purchased a portion of the company.
"He kind of ran the contracting side and they built homes here in Rector, commercial buildings in the immediate northeast Arkansas area," said Sigsby.
"As a small child, I used to play here in the lumber shed and run through the rafters where all the lumber was stored and things like that, so it's been a part of my life forever," said Sigsby.
Sigsby said the loss of the building causes him pain. The building, Sigsby said, had sentimental value.
"It's an old Rector landmark. The Brewer family operated it for about 30 years until they retired and sold it to another one of their employees," said Sigsby. "For anyone who has been a long time resident of Rector, it's just been one of our landmarks and it's sad to see it go."
Sigsby said several homes in Rector and the surrounding areas more than likely have lumber which came from the building that's not burned down.
"Small family owned operation, truly a mom and pop with mom running the office side and pop doing the lumber and retail part. For many years, the homes here in Rector, everything back through the 50s and 60s, pretty well all the materials came from the lumber yard here," said Sigsby.