Family business lost in Perry fire

PERRY — Mary and Bryan Davee lost their family business Monday night in a fire that authorities say was caused by a lightning strike when a severe thunderstorm tore through Middle Georgia.

“For the first hour, you’re frantic,” Mary Davee said of watching the burning Davee’s Hardwood Lumber her husband inherited from his father. “Then you get a grip and realize there’s nothing you can do, and you watch it and wait ’til tomorrow.”

Houston County Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Noles said the fire that destroyed the business was started by a lightning strike. Firefighters received a call about the blaze about 7:15 p.m.

More than 30 firefighters from Houston and Peach counties battled the fire, managing to keep it from spreading from the Culpepper Road sawmill to adjacent structures on the 15-acre property two miles north of the Perry city limits, Noles said. The Davee home is next door to the mill.

Firefighters were contending with sawdust, lumber, lacquer and other chemicals, he said. No one was injured in the blaze, but the mill, founded in 1973, was destroyed.

“I just lost everything that I make a living with,” Bryan Davee said Tuesday as he surveyed the smoldering remains of the workshop that once housed about $60,000 worth of woodworking tools and equipment that constituted Davee’s Hardwood Lumber.

He also lost nearly $7,000 worth of finished product, including two complete custom-built staircases and mahogany panels.

His wife also was heartsick about the loss of an antique buffet being refinished for a customer.

Also gone are the tools that once belonged to Bryan Davee’s father, Bill Davee.

But Mary Davee said it could have been worse: It could have been their home that caught fire with all their pets inside, including exotic birds, fish, cats and dogs.

She said she’s also thankful her husband wasn’t at the shop when the fire started. Bryan Davee said he’d left about five minutes before when the storm struck.

The Davees said firefighters arrived quickly.

Noles attributed the quick response to the fact that firefighters were on another call of a downed tree nearby.

The storm downed several other trees in the south end of the county and knocked out power, but most electric service was restored overnight, he said. “It was a long night,” Noles said.

The Davees, who had no insurance, plan to rebuild.

“That’s all I can do,” Bryan Davee said.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 923-3109, extension 243.