Arson possible in Friend’s fire

Published 10:43 pm Monday, March 8, 2010

State fire marshals along with the Maplesville Police Department and Chilton County Sheriff’s Department are investigating a possible arson that burned down Friend’s Diner on Main Street in Maplesville.

Officials said the store’s cash register was missing from the scene, suggesting an attempt at disguising a burglary.

Police chief Todd Ingram said there are no suspects in the investigation. He said the fire occurred between 3-4 a.m. Sunday morning.

Mayor Kurt Wallace got a call at a quarter till 5 a.m. that morning with the news.

“The saddest part is that they had been remodeling the restaurant, putting a lot of money into it to make it nicer,” Wallace said. “And now this happens.

Friend’s Diner owner Connie Smith got a sudden call from Christine Anderson, a diner employee, at approximately 4:05 a.m. explaining her business was on fire. She rushed to the scene to see smoke and flames as the fire department attempted to put the fire out.

“My first reaction was shock,” Smith said. “I couldn’t believe someone would do something like that for such a little amount of money in that building.”

Smith is waiting on her insurance company to send an adjuster out to clear the scene before they can tear down the remains of the building.

Smith said she was unsure about the future of the diner until Monday morning, when her loyal customers and fellow citizens of Maplesville came to her aid.

“When I went down there to meet with them, so many customers came by to volunteer,” she said. “It’s not an option as to whether or not I’m going to rebuild. My customers need it as much as I do.”

Smith said she was moved by the town’s citizen’s hurried response to the incident and their generosity. Several people have offered equipment, including lumber and paneling, and service in her future effort to rebuild Friend’s Diner. She said the restaurant would open at the same location only moved back a little further.

“It just makes you aware that people care,” Smith said. “It lets you know that when you’re doing something right in a place of business it means something to so many people. Everybody just pulls together when something like this is going on.”

Shocked at the sight of her business up in flames, Smith said eight of her employees met her at the scene around 4:15 a.m., and they stayed until noon.

Assistant police chief Corry McCartney is investigating the case, as well as Jay Edwards with the state fire marshal’s office and investigator Greg Walls with the county sheriff’s office. Other than the missing cash register and lack of suspects, McCartney had nothing new to report as of Monday afternoon.

McCartney said anyone with tips or knowledge about the incident should contact him at (334) 366-4211.