The Wood family huddled in the cold Friday morning as fire consumed part of their 50-year-old business.
About 6:30 a.m., Macon-Bibb County firefighters were called to the 6400 block of Ga. 247, or Hawkinsville Road, where flames were devouring the repair shop of Middle Georgia Freightliner Isuzu.
Owner Bill Wood watched as firefighters circled the one-story metal building housing 16 tractor-trailers under repair at the third-generation family business.
"My dad started it and I took it over from my dad, and quite frankly for the most part, my sons have taken it over now," Wood said as some of his other longtime workers arrived.
The business employs 55 people.
Bright, orange flames shot high into the predawn sky as the blaze intensified shortly after firefighters arrived on Bartlett Road near Bibb Distributing.
Bibb sheriff's deputies set up a detour at Barnes Ferry Road as fire hoses blocked the road.
"We are in a defensive tactic at this time," Macon-Bibb County Fire Assistant Chief Shane Edwards said as a firefighter on an aerial ladder pumped water down on the roof, sending a thick plume of black smoke high into the sky.
Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said firefighters initially battled heavy flames on the inside of the building until it became too dangerous for them.
"The roof was compromised to the point that it was about to collapse in on them, so they did make a withdrawal, had crews back out," Riggins said of the two-alarm fire. "We were very concerned there were lots of explosives inside the building."
A couple of propane tanks possibly exploded as crews were working, he said.
After about 30 minutes on the scene, firefighters extinguished most of the flames that were burning so hot that they devoured the paint on the metal exterior walls near the offices.
Most of the damage was in the service office and parts department that had a second story of storage near the right side of the building.
"If I could have saved the parts department, then I could have worked in the yard on trucks," Wood said. "But without parts and without the computers, you're done."
Tractor-trailers valued at about $150,000 a piece were in all 16 bays, he said, and he was only beginning to calculate the loss of diagnostic computers and their software programs and other tools.
Firefighters were able to keep the flames from spreading to six service bays on the left side of the building.
Fire investigator Lt. Ben Gleaton will try to determine where the fire started.
No one was there at the time the fire began, and no one was hurt fighting the flames.
Although the business is "heavily insured," Wood worries about losing regular customers who need trucks repaired before they can reopen.
When his late father Joe Wood opened in 1967, he called the business his "American dream."
Before he died in 1998, he told his son and grandsons to "keep my American dream going."
As firefighters were rolling up hoses, the Wood family pledged to do just that.
"We will be back," Wood said. "It will just be a while."