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Bates Fire Could Have Been Worse - John Dunn

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LOBELVILLE, Tenn. - People are breathing a big sigh of relief after a fire strikes one of the largest employers in Perry County. Two buildings were destroyed at the Bates Rubber factory. Firefighters had to act fast to save jobs.

Donald Meredith will tell you he's a restless sleeper, and what he saw out his front window around 2am Saturday prompted a quick call to 911. "Real black smoke, and the fire was real bright.  I mean it was really bright," says Donald Meredith.

Across the street two buildings at the Bates rubber plant were on fire. Flames were also threatening the main building where more than 100 people work. Lobelville mayor Robby Moore knew the stakes were high for his small town. "If it had caught on fire, I mean all these people would have for sure been out of work for a very extended period of time," says Mayor Robby Moore.

Firefighters immediately built a wall of water between the two smaller buildings and the main structure. Scorched metal shows just how close this was to being a disaster. The two buildings that burned were mostly for archives and storage. The auto parts production and assembly area was spared, and all employees should be back to work on Thursday. "In the whole scheme of things, it was blessing the way it turned out," says Mayor Moore.

Donald Meredith worked at Bates for 28 years and knows how much it means to Lobelville. "I knew the importance of all this for the city and county, and all the people around here, because this is a livelihood for a bunch of people," says Meredith.

He is glad his call to 911 alerted firefighters in time to save the building.

There is still a mystery about what caused all of this.  The state fire marshal will be here later this week to try and come up with an official determination.

The Bates factory makes parts for Honda and Chrysler vehicles and also makes rubber gaskets.

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