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Whitesville couple displaced by Statesboro’s latest fire
whitesville fire
In this file photo, this mobile home belonging to Jon and Iris Brack in the Whitesville neighborhood was reduced to a burned-out shell by a fire Wednesday morning. Investigators have determined that this and several other recent fires are unrelated and there is no evidence of suspicious intent in any of the blazes. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

A fire Wednesday morning that destroyed the home of Jon and Iris Brack on Joyce Street in the Whitesville community was the latest of several recent fires in Statesboro.

Jon Brack said he was on his way to work and his wife was at home when the fire was discovered.

“Fire and smoke started coming from the bedroom, and about that time, she did what she’s supposed to do, she got out,” he said, standing near the burned out shell of the mobile home in the afternoon.

The Bracks owned the home and were its only occupants. All that they had inside it, “even the walls, the ceiling, everything” was lost, he said. By the afternoon, the American Red Cross had put the couple up at Stay Plus Extended Stay Suites, and other organizations and individuals were stepping forward with other assistance.

“We’re ready to start again,” Brack said, “a new start with God leading the way.”

A neighbor who called him about the fire while he was on his way to work had also called 911.

The call came to the Statesboro Fire Department at 8:05 a.m., said SFD Chief Tim Grams.

Statesboro’s full-time Fire Department responded with its usual force, bringing three fire engines and a tower truck. The Bulloch County Fire Department, now a combination full-time and volunteer force, also responded, as is also normal, since the two departments have an automatic aid agreement.

“We were able to quickly extinguish it, but unfortunately the home sustained substantial damage,” Grams said. “Right now everything is pointing to electrical as to the cause, an electrical outlet in a bedroom.”

After using the official term “substantial damage,” he also referred to the home as “a complete loss.”

Also typical when residents are displaced by a fire, the Statesboro Fire Department referred the Bracks to the Red Cross and other sources of assistance. The department’s Café Unit, made up of volunteers, and Bulloch County VOAD, or Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, have been coordinating intensive efforts to assist families affected by fires.

Grams had not identified the Bracks by name but said the home was owned by two adults who were its only occupants. He said there had been no injuries. The official report was not complete yet.


Walnut Street fire

Another fire this week caused a nighttime stir downtown but left nobody displaced.  The blaze reported around 10:30 p.m. Monday in an already vacant, small apartment building on South Walnut Street left its brick exterior walls standing but the roof partially collapsed.

As of Tuesday morning, Grams had the address as 228 Walnut. But a city planning official later confirmed for the Statesboro Herald that this was the building identified as 232 South Walnut St. in a zoning map amendment and variance approved in February. At that time, the owner was reportedly planning to tear the building down.

Grams once lived in the now burned out apartment building, circa 1997, when he first started with the Fire Department, he said. At that time the one-story structure contained three or four apartments. But more recently, it was empty, and some of the windows had been boarded up.

“It was unoccupied, there was no power run to it, so obviously we’re still working on determining the cause and origin,” Grams said Tuesday. “But it was a pretty significant fire, complete loss of the building.”

He also noted that the building had been “gutted out” prior to the fire, possibly for renovation.

After a neighbor reported the fire, the SFD responded in force, and the BCFD also sent an engine. So about 20-25 firefighters were on the scene.

Smoke smelling of pine rosin fogged downtown Statesboro while the Police Department blocked South Main Street, rerouting traffic around a few blocks.


Demolition slated

A Bulloch County Board of Assessors tax map shows the 232 S. Walnut St. parcel as belonging to Beyond JPR Properties. Statesboro City Council on Feb. 4 approved a zoning map change and a variance for 231 South Main St. and, behind it, 232 South Walnut St. for property owner Beyond JPR Properties LLC of Newbury Park, California.

Renovations to the larger apartment building facing South Main Street have since been completed.

But the plan for the building in back was different. “The applicant seeks to demolish the rear building and construct a total of 12 additional units on the site,” stated the Statesboro city Planning and Development Department’s report.

The building largely destroyed by the fire was a part of this property, City Planner Justin Williams confirmed Tuesday afternoon. No demolition or building permits had yet been issued for the site.


Other fires

A fire around 4:30 a.m. Monday at Eagle Court Villas on Lanier Drive occurred in a clothes dryer, and when firefighters arrived they put it out with a fire extinguisher, the SFD reported. But the fire resulted in the evacuation of a whole section of the apartment complex and a response by the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team offering assistance, reported VOAD community coordinator DeWayne Grice.

A fire more than a week ago, on March 29, at Little Lotts Creek Apartments initially displaced more than 60 residents from 20 apartments. The community response is reported in a separate story.

In a brief interview Tuesday morning, Grams observed no connection between recent fires, except for heightened media attention since the one at Little Lotts Creek Apartments.

“We have had some pretty significant fires here recently, and it’s been my experience that they happen in spurts,” he said. “We might have three or four in a row, and then it kind of calms down.”


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