Fire destroys Rock Hill Tire Company

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comDecember 20, 2013 

— The remnants of a new and used tire business that had been a community fixture in Rock Hill for three decades lay burned and charred after a fire consumed the building early Friday morning, leaving employees without a job less than a week before Christmas.

At about 2:50 a.m., firefighters were sent to the Rock Hill Tire Co., 404 Albright Road, where they could see flames rising from the roof, said Rock Hill Fire Battalion Chief Rusty Myers. It took crews nearly 45 minutes to extinguish the blaze, which prompted officials to shut down nearby roads for several hours.

Fire investigators won’t be able to determine a cause for a while, Myers said. The contents of the business, which included tires and other combustible materials, made it difficult for firefighters to contain hot spots. Crews used a construction excavator to knock down the walls of the business, a square building equipped with a white awning and carport.

The building was destroyed, he said, causing about $80,000 in damages. No injuries were reported, and the flames did not spread to nearby businesses. The business did not have insurance, Myers said.

By 8:30 a.m. Friday, firefighters were dousing burning rubber and remnants of the business with foam and water. The roof is gone, and what’s left behind includes twisted metal, burned tires and charred walls.

Early Friday, employees stood by as fire officials searched the wreckage.

Mechanic Bernard Agurs said he hoped to find his tools. Agurs has worked at Rock Hill Tire for two years, and the fire comes at a devastating time just before the holidays.

“It won’t ruin Christmas, but I ain’t got nothing,” Agurs said.

The shop boasted a “good” and loyal clientele, he said.

Customer Margaret Anne Fewell Ricks has been getting her tires replaced and repaired at the business for the past four years. When she first went there, she was blown away by owner Willie Mackey, who she learned used to eat breakfast with her late father every morning at The Varsity restaurant on Oakland Avenue.

After he fixed her tire, Mackey – whom she called “honest and caring” – insisted that she let him replace all of her tires, she said, “because they were in really, really bad shape.”

“He said, ‘You need new tires. I’m not going to let you leave in this shape. You come back and pay me whenever you can.’”

Ricks said losing Rock Hill Tire will be felt in the community.

“You don’t find places where people treat you that well and see that you have a problem and agree to go ahead and fix it because that’s the safest” thing to do, she said. “Even if you can’t (pay for it) right now.”

“That whole side of Rock Hill... what are they going to do now? They don’t have Mr. Mackey to rely on anymore for his kindness and his help.”

As crews closed off the perimeter of the business Friday, several neighbors and passersby stopped to gaze at the aftermath. Many waved and honked their horns as they drove along the busy highway.

John Douglas, Mackey’s brother and an employee for the past year, said Rock Hill Tire has been in the community for more than 30 years.

Workers don’t know what sparked the blaze, he said. Employees typically turn off the heat compressor every night before leaving.

“Right now, it’s up in the air,” he said about moving forward after the flames. Employees hoped their tools could be salvaged from the debris, but on Friday morning they didn’t dare sift through the smoldering pile of blackened brick and rubber.

The employees had planned to bring dishes full of food to feast on Friday and celebrate the holidays, Douglas said.

“It’s gone now.”

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