A fire last Sunday (Feb. 15) destroyed one of the buildings used by RV customizer Coachcraft by MacDonald, but the firm continued its operations, according to the Columbus, Ga. Ledger Enquirer.
“I just want to be sure we get the word out that we are in business and will continue to stay in business,” said owner Brad MacDonald.
The intense fire, sparked just after 1 a.m., destroyed six of nine RVs, MacDonald told the newspaper. Five of the large motorhomes valued between $200,000 and $300,000 were hulks of scrap metal all the way down to their wheels. There were pieces of debris resembling sofa coils and a sink.
One RV with a South Dakota license plate was melted away at its rear, allowing flames to shoot through the vehicle and eat away its insides.
“It looks like a war zone, like something in Iraq,” said Frank MacDonald, the retired founder of Coachcraft. “There were no injuries, thank God. If it had happened during the day, it could have killed four or five people.”
David Jones, fire marshal with Columbus (Ga.) Fire and Emergency Medical Services, gave a preliminary damage estimate of $4 million. The blaze, he said, apparently was started by a 12-inch natural gas main that developed a leak.
“It’s going to be (ruled) accidental,” Jones said. “We still haven’t come out and pinpointed the exact point of origin, but our investigation is leading toward it being caused by natural gas.”
Natural gas utilities mix chemical odors – often described as smelling like rotten eggs – into the odorless gas flowing through their pipelines to allow leaks to be discovered quickly. Brad MacDonald said company workers have reported smelling natural gas several times through the years. “I’m pretty mad. This is costing me a lot of time and money right now, and at no fault of ours.”
The MacDonalds believe gas fumes leaked from the pipeline into their building. When a pilot light in a gas heater hanging from the ceiling came on, “It blew the whole thing up,” Frank MacDonald said.
The structure that was destroyed had been built six to eight months ago, Frank MacDonald said. An older adjoining building built in the late 1980s sustained some fire and water damage. Each building had four bays.
Brad MacDonald hoped to have two bays open for business this week but he had to wait for the city to clear the structure for occupancy.