Dothan fire investigators opened a portion of Headland Avenue and left the site of a Thursday morning fire that destroyed the former Supreme Meadow Gold Ice Cream building at East Powell Street and Headland Avenue and are reviewing information gathered with the hope of determining a cause early next week.
According to Dothan Fire Department Deputy Chief Chris Etheredge, firefighters and investigators left the scene about 8 p.m. after 10 hours fighting the blaze. Security monitored the location until the investigation resumed early Friday morning.
Etheredge said a search of the site satisfied fire officials that the building was unoccupied at the time of the blaze.
“The city of Dothan Street Department is assisting us in the investigation portion, by providing equipment that will scoop up the damaged building materials,” he said. “This serves two purposes — it aids in our search for fatalities as well as moving items so we can search for potential reasons of how the fire was started, and when the fire was started.”
The fire, which was reported around 10:20 a.m. Thursday, had multiple fire units on scene within minutes. When they arrived, heavy smoke billowing from the building was visible throughout downtown. Several minutes later, flames broke through the structure.
“For the safety of everyone involved, we used a defensive firefighting method,” Etheredge said. “As firefighters arrived, they could hear noises associated with potential collapsing.”
Earlier Thursday, before the fire, police rousted two vagrants who had been occupying the property, Dothan police Lt. Doug Magill said.
The blaze was controlled by midafternoon, and investigators began searching the site, which recently has been used for shelter by some homeless people.
“We hope to have the search completed sometime today,” Etheredge said. “However, the investigation process will not wrap up until roughly Monday. We have to review every portion of the investigation and discuss the investigation. But, I can tell you at this time, we don’t have any indicators on how the fire was started.”
Supreme Meadow Gold Ice Cream was founded by J.W. Parkman in the early 1900s, and served Dothan and the surrounding area, later expanding its milk and ice-cream sales to seven other states.
The building has been vacant since the plant closed in the 1980s, and it was recently purchased by the Dothan Downtown Redevelopment Authority for $55,000.