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Fire destroys business

Two Andalusia men narrowly escaped with their lives after a fire swept through their U.S. Hwy. 29 apartment Sunday morning.

Brothers Brad and Clark Sanders, each college students, had returned for a weekend at home and were spending the night in an apartment attached to the Southern Countertop Services building when the fire broke out at approximately 6 a.m. Sunday.

The 40-foot apartment was located inside a 200-foot structure that housed the countertop business owned by their parents, Angela and Raymond Sanders, since in 1985.

Mrs. Sanders said the two were in their beds asleep when the fire broke out.

“Our boys are alive today for two reasons – one, God had their hand on them; and two, because Clark is such a light sleeper,” she said. “Clark said he heard a crackling sound. When plastic laminate is heated, it will pop like a firecracker. That woke him up. We had smoke detectors in the apartment but not the shop. Thank God he’s a light sleeper. He said he could see between the wall area and the shop and saw the smoke. He woke his brother and they immediately exited through the only way they could – through a window on the south end of the apartment.”

Sanders said the men attempted to save a few personal items by shoving them out the window.

“But they lost all that too, because minutes after they cleared the window, the roof began to cave in,” she said. “We just praise God that they are here with us. Even though the building, our company, is a complete loss, we’re very blessed. Our children are safe.”

Sanders said she also firmly believes Clark’s actions saved his brother’s life.

“If (Clark) had not been there that night, I have every reason to presume Brad wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

Sanders said the structure was insured and that community support has been overwhelming.

“That company has been our livelihood since it started,” she said. “We lost 25 years worth of tools, personal items that can’t be replaced. We realize we’re at a crossroads, but we have our sons. We’re just so thankful to God and to the community for all their care and concern. The outpouring has been tremendous.”

Firefighters from Carolina, Hopewell and Libertyville volunteer fire departments, as well as those from Andalusia Fire Department, worked to put out the blaze.

It is unknown what caused the fire, which was the second firefighters responded to Sunday morning. Sometime near 4 a.m., AFD firefighters were called to a house fire on Church Street where a vacant home suffered extensive damage. The cause of that fire is also unknown.