A Cherokee County commissioner is asking for the public's patience on road maintenance after a fire gutted its facilities.

The Precinct 3 shop caught fire around 4 p.m. Thursday, and burned to the ground.

"It's still smoldering," Precinct 3 Commissioner Katherine Pinotti said Friday morning. "It couldn't have been at a worse time. We have dry weather, and I'm trying my best to get the roads fixed by Thanksgiving, and now I can't even get gas in my trucks."

The county lost welding machines, road materials, including recently purchased asphalt, and other items in the fire. All road maintenance records and personnel files were lost in the blaze as well.

No one was injured, and most of the heavy equipment was parked out back and was saved from the fire.

Lauren Smith, administrative assistant, was the only person at the office when it caught fire, Ms. Pinotti said. Ms. Smith used eight extinguishers in an attempt to stop the fire. She then moved some of the trucks out of harm's way and was in the process of hooking up the welding machine trailer to a truck when firefighters arrived and stopped her, Ms. Pinotti said.

The fire remains under investigation, but Ms. Pinotti believes it started in the building's electrical wiring. The blackest portions of the building are near the electrical outlet for a shop fan, she said.

"It's a horrible place for that fire to start," she said. "That's where we kept all our filters, oil and antifreeze - it's all flammable."

The building itself was a simple metal building with no insulation.

After the fire, Ms. Pinotti said two workers were trying to keep up with road maintenance while the others purchased necessary supplies to keep going. The county purchased hard hats, safety glasses and chainsaws Friday so basic maintenance could continue.

The building and its contents were insured. A portable building will be moved to the facility but it will be spring before a new shop is built.

Phone lines should also be operating before Thanksgiving. In the meantime, Ms. Pinotti asked that people with non-emergency calls leave a message on the shop's voicemail, 903-586-5811. Workers can check those messages remotely.

People with emergencies, including downed trees, should call Ms. Pinotti's cell phone at 903-445-7945.

Ms. Pinotti said she knows patience is wearing thin after an abnormally wet year caused an increase in potholes and other road problems. She said her crews would continue working. "Everyone has been very supportive," she said. "All I need is patience and prayers."



Digital Content Manager

Faith Harper is an East Texas native working for her hometown newspaper. She specializes in digital content for the Tyler Morning Telegraph. In her spare time, she loves tacos, road trips and is currently learning to sail.

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