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Metter Livestock Auction barn burns
70-year-old barn burned completely Monday; no animals were inside
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    A Candler County icon is gone after a late-night blaze Monday in Metter. The Metter Livestock Auction barn, located on Ga. 46 just inside the Metter city limits, burned to the ground.
    Metter firefighter Roy Biggers said the call came in around 9:45 p.m., and the barn — about 70 years old, according to owner Irvin Brannen III — was fully engulfed. All that remains are bricks and piles of twisted metal. Fortunately, there were no animals in the barn at the time.
    The state fire marshal's office listed the cause of  the fire are "undetermined" and the investigation is closed, he said.
    But, the topic of rebuilding is not closed, according to Brannen and tenant Lewie Fortner, who has operated the business since 2003.
    Still undecided Tuesday, Fortner said he is looking into several opportunities and ideas, but nothing has been settled yet. But whether a new livestock auction barn is built on the Metter location, Fortner isn't done with the business.
    "We'll start again," he said. "You can't keep us down."
    Brannen, who owns the property along with his father, said " We haven't given up on the idea (of rebuilding.) But, to replace something like that is impossible."
    About 70 years ago, a group of farmers got together to construct the market.  With rows and rows of pens in the back, where goats, cattle, sheep and horses were kept during sale time; an area where poultry and rabbit cages were kept during the sales; a cafe, and a sales ring surrounded by bleachers, the auction barn had become more than just a place to buy and sell; it was almost a festival on sale day.
    Fortner had "about a dozen regular vendors" and had a yard sale venue outside the sale barn every first and  third Saturday of the month. The atmosphere during recent years was reminiscent of sale days in the past; the barn had some years when it was vacant, but there have been many tenants throughout the years, Brannen said.
    "We hate to see it (the old barn) go," he said. "It was all fat lighter."
    Years ago a North Georgia family bought the barn and operated it as a goat sale, but ended up losing the property. The Brannens bought it from a tax sale, and have owned it about 13 years.
    Of those years, Fortner has been a tenant about six years, he said. He opened up for business with a partner in 2003, and has had it solo since 2006, he said.
    Brannen said Fortner has been an exemplary tenant. "I'm going to work with him," he said, in case Fortner decides to rebuild. "He has the business, I have the place. I'd hate to lose (the auction) — he's been a god tenant."
    During a recent sale, Brannen noticed vehicles from all over Georgia, including Richmond Hill and Augusta. Some livestock and tack dealers have even traveled from South Carolina and other states. "A hundred miles away — not a problem," he said.
    Losing the livestock auction is also going to be a blow for children who enjoy the carnival atmosphere, he said. "It was a big kid draw, there were regular vendors. It was a good thing."
    The barn itself will be missed, he added. "It was nostalgic — had a lot of character."

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