GENEVA, Ala. (WDHN) — Shortly after 7 a.m. Friday morning, flames shot more than 20-feet into the sky, and black smoke billowed from the maintenance building behind the Geneva County Courthouse.
Surveillance camera footage of the parking lot indicates no one was near the structure when the blaze erupted. The structure is a total loss.
Besides tools and other supplies, all of the county’s election equipment was inside. It included recently purchased handicapped voting machines and state-of-the-art electronic keypads.
At this time, it’s believed the fire was started by an electrical short.
“We have plenty of time before our next election to get all of our voting equipment replaced so this event should not interfere with our election process,” Geneva Co. Commission Chairman and Probate Judge Toby Seay said. “The electronic poll pads and the handicap machines were brand new and had never been used before.”
Judge Seay says his office is in contact with the Alabama secretary of state’s office and it’s believed everything will be replaced before next May’s primary election, which includes the Republican race for governor.
Geneva Volunteer Firefighters say they responded within minutes, but the building was already engulfed in flames.
“We first got on the scene it was fully engulfed, we tried to make entry but no entry,” Geneva Volunteer Fire Department Captain James Taylor said. “We just surrounded and drownded it as best we could.”
The structure fire was less than 50 yards from the Geneva County Jail. According to Geneva County Sheriff Tony Helms, it was closely being monitored and if it had gotten any closer, then the inmates would have had to be evacuated.
“No problem there, the only concern we had was if the electricity went off then it would have started our generators,” Geneva County Sheriff Tony Helms. “And hope Alabama Power would be able to re-route it and get us back on as soon as they could.”
Geneva County probate personnel are in contact with the new election equipment manufacturer. It’s hoped that most of the machines will be covered by insurance.