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Cause of Funeral Home Fire Undetermined

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Vidalia Fire Department Chief Brian Sikes said Tuesday, March 15, that the cause of a fire that destroyed the Drummer Funeral Home property on MLK Avenue on March 13 cannot be determined by the fire department because of the speed of the fire; however, Drummer’s insurance agency has declared a faulty heating system as the source of the blaze. “When we arrived, the structure was completely engulfed,” Sikes explained. “It burned so hot that we had to return to the site to continue to fight the fire as it died out over several days.” According to Sikes, the only determination that can be made is that the blaze began in the back of the building and moved through the roof. The insurance adjusters that investigated the debris and determined a wall heater with an internal thermostat caused the fire. The loss of Drummer Funeral Home is not merely a loss of a business location, but the destruction of Vidalia history. The funeral home was previously known as Smalley’s Funeral Home, which was run by Tom Smalley throughout the 1950’s. Smalley’s Funeral Home was one of the most longstanding African-American funeral homes in the area. Vincent Drummer acquired the property in 2016, when he purchased the building through a tax sale for $7,250. While maintaining the original location, Drummer renovated the structure, but left the original elements behind the brick walls. It is those remaining elements of the past which caused the fire to burn so hot, according to Sikes.

“To see that landmark burn like that is incredibly heart-wrenching,” Sikes commented .“That is a piece of history we will never be able to restore.”

Drummer plans to rebuild the facility in the same location, but will temporarily operate at the former Stewart-Rosier Funeral Home in Lyons until then.

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