Mysterious fire damages Hwy 80 business

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Scientists believe there’s no hard evidence to support the phenomenon of spontaneous combustion. If they’d been inside The Lube Center on Highway 80 West last Saturday, it’s possible they just might have found some.

“We really don’t know what happened,” said Lube Center owner Ben Sherrod.

According to Tommy Tate, Captain with the Demopolis Fire Department, the DFD received the call reporting the blaze at 1:38 p.m. Saturday. When firefighters arrived two minutes later and “popped” the building’s windows open to get inside, they found a truck ablaze in the “bay” area of the building.

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The fire was soon extinguished, but not before causing extensive damage to the Lube Center’s roof.

“We’re looking at having to replace it,” Sherrod said Monday, gesturing at the blackened ceiling overhanging the site of the truck fire. “All the insulation will have to be replaced as well.”

The truck, it was later determined, belonged to Sherrod. He explained that he had parked it inside as a precaution when the business closed at noon. With the truck not running, the building locked, and no one present at the time the blaze began, its cause remains a mystery.

“We don’t have any official explanation,” said Tate. “The report by Captain Johnson says it was ‘possibly something with the battery.'”

Regardless of how it started, Tate said that a fire in a facility that houses oil would always be a cause for concern for firefighters.

“It’s definitely something to think about,” he said. “But they keep the oil in separate drums in the pit area down there, and the truck was in the bay, above that.”

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Tate was able to have a laugh about it afterwards.

“When the tires start melting, they can explode,” he explained. “That’ll get your attention. There were some bystanders who were eating at Smokin’ Jack’s who came out to see what was going on. When one of those tires exploded, one of them turned and said, ‘Well, it’s time for me to go now!'”

Sherrod said the Lube Center would remain open, charred ceiling and all.

“We have customers who need to be served,” he said, “so we’re open.”