Twenty-five years ago on Dec. 18, 1991, the Sully Fire Department was called to Co-Line for a small attic fire in the old repair shop. Rail Brand can still remember details from that day very clearly.
“I had been smelling like a slight wood smoke smell intermittently throughout the day,” he said. Every so often, he’d go look around and see if he could find where the smell was coming from but had no luck finding the source. Rail worked into the evening and decided to call it a day.
“When I left the shop and was going back to house, I remember it was like the good Lord tapped me on the shoulder. I stopped and just felt like something wasn’t right. Then I looked back at the shop and saw a little whisper of smoke coming out of the attic louver.”
Rail went back into the shop and tried again to find the source of the smoke in the attic. Having no luck once again, he called the fire department for help. They came out and still, they struggled to find the source. Finally, using a forklift to reach up and touch the ceiling, they identified the area in the attic that was smoldering.
Using hammers and pry bars, they removed the steel siding that was nailed to the ceiling to gain access to the fire and put it out. Rail remembers it being very cold that night and how he felt bad for firefighter Ervin Arkema (husband of now Co-Liner Linda Arkema), who had to stay outside by the fire truck.
When the fire personnel left after a couple hours on scene, the repair shop was a “giant mess,” Rail recalled. Since some of the steel siding on the ceiling had to be removed, insulation was strewn about everywhere. But, in light of everything, it could have been a lot worse.
To this day, Rail still doesn’t know what caused the fire, whether it was electrical or something odd like a spark from where he was torch cutting down below going up into a seam of the ceiling.