Fire destroys Sumter County tractors

AMERICUS, Ga. -- An intense early morning blaze has severely damaged the Aimtrac dealership at 230 U.S. Highway 19 South in Sumter County.

Fire Chief John Ekaitis said firefighters of the Sumter County Fire Department responded the call at 12:24 a.m. on Thursday, supported by units from the City of Americus and Webster County. In total, 37 firefighters and seven pieces of firefighting equipment were employed to control the blaze, Ekaitis said.

Ekaitis said the firefighters advanced their lines into the structure but were forced to retreat "a couple of times" by the intense heat and smoke.

Ekaitis said the flames were out in less than two hours. Fire officials say the flames most likely originated from an electrical malfunction, though the cause is still under investigation.

Dealership manager Scott Anderson said he has no firm idea what it will cost to replace Thursday's loss of 11 pieces of equipment, including four large tractors, and to repair the damage to the back side of the building.

"It was pretty bad," Anderson said, "We're running our office out of a tent, but we're still open for business."