Employees of Imperial Tire L.L.C., a tire retreading firm in Maynardville, were left without jobs after a fire destroyed the facility Oct. 7.
It is believed the plant, which has been in operation since 1994, caught fire when sparks from a skiving machine exhaust fan ignited fumes from a gum extruder in the shop, according to Plant Manager Beth Smith. Ms. Smith, one of the six employees present when the fire occurred, said the building was a “total loss.”
“It's very difficult to deal with, but just thank heavens no one was hurt,” she said.
The company is owned by 21-year tire industry veteran David Miniard. According to Ms. Smith, he plans to start up the business again, but the cost of the damage and length of time it will take to rebuild are unknown. The plant did have insurance coverage.
Ms. Smith said that, with 15 workers, Imperial Tire was one of the larger employers in the community, and Mr. Miniard has always been adamant about supporting the local economy, purchasing as many materials from other local businesses as possible.
“The owner David Miniard is one of the nicest guys that I've ever met,” she said. “I've been working with him for over five years, and one of the things that was extremely important to him was that we put the money back into the community.”
While she doesn't share ownership in the company, Ms. Smith said the fire was “devastating” for her.
“It's 100 percent Dave's business, but I am 100 percent emotionally involved in the business,” she said. “We work more like partners…. He knew the tire end of it, and I knew the business end of it, and I've learned a tremendous amount about tires, but that man knows everything there is to know about a tire.”
Imperial Tire specializes in medium truck retreads featuring Michelin North America Inc.'s MegaMile tread rubber products. The company has served customers in Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia.