Fire at Old Salem Gym under investigation

Photo/Tammy Curtis Sonya Bryant surveys the loss of her home, an apartment within the old Salem Gym near the Campus of Old Main on Feb. 1. Bryant says she believes the fire was set by a tenant who was due to be evicted on Feb. 1, the morning after the fire destroyed th building. The tenant has been listed as a Missing Person.

By Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor

Sonya Bryant lost her home in a fire at the old Salem Gym, on the campus of Old Main on the night of Jan. 31. 

After hours of work extinguishing the flames and trying to prevent the fire from spreading to Old Main and nearby mobile homes, the structure was determined to be a total loss. 

The property was owned by HD McCullough but Bryant was buying the building that had been subdivided into two apartments. 

Bryant explained to this news agency she believes the fire was set by the other tenant, Ronnie Adams, who she said has only been out of prison a short amount of time and was aware he was going to be evicted the following morning for not paying rent. 

“I was able to get my two dogs and cats out, that is how fast it went up. They got here pretty quick and they said they couldn’t save it,” she explained of the rapid response of the Salem Fire Department. 

Besides her home, she said there was a lot of shop equipment in the building. Bryant said she lost everything in the fire and left the house in only her socks. 

Before the fire began, she said she heard something sound as if it hit the paper thin wall on the other side of her apartment. Her apartment then quickly filled up with a thick black smoke and she escaped. Two 100 pound propane tanks were seen on the front porch of Adams apartment. 

Bryant said Adam’s mother was also seen leaving the scene very quickly in a grey Toyota Tundra just minutes after the fire around 10:05 p.m. and came back later asking if her son was in the house. Bryant said attempts to reach Adams by phone have been unsuccessful. 

Luke, who is the apartment manager for HD McCullough said he was in flip flops and went inside with the fire department. “He knew we were going to lock him out this morning. The chains and locks and everything are in the back of my truck,” he explained and said McCullough had a dentist appointment that morning and wasn’t at the scene. 

A neighbor, Mary  Estes, said she saw a vehicle make a circle when she took her dog out just before the fire department arrived. She recalled it burning in 1979 the first time when her mother lived near the gym. 

An account has been set up for Bryant. Salem Police Chief Shad Overman said at this time, Adams has been listed as a missing person. Anyone who knows of his whereabouts is asked to all the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department or Salem Police Department.

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