CREWE, Va. (WRIC) — The vice president of the family-owned aircraft tire treading business largely destroyed in a fire Friday morning said he hopes to get the facility up and running as soon as possible.
It was a tear-jerking day for vice president Bill Wilkerson Jr., whose grandfather founded Wilkerson Aircraft Tires decades ago.
“It was my grandfather, and my father, and my life’s work. And all of our family of employees,” Wilkerson Jr. said. “It makes you know that we’re not guaranteed the next breath that we take so we have to take every day and appreciate it,” he said, holding back tears.
Dark, thick smoke towered above the small town of Crewe after the fire started around 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Employee of nearly 26 years, Tony Staylor, said a blower motor in the production area overheated. Wilkerson Jr. said they believe that’s how the fire started.
The blaze rapidly spread. “I dialed 9-1-1 and before I turned around, the whole building was engulfed in smoke and flames,” Staylor told 8News.
The employee told 8News some of his coworkers used fire extinguishers but they didn’t make a dent. “Several people that work in the back of the building, they just took off. Their phones are in there, their keys are in there, they just wanted to get out,” he said. Thankfully, no one was injured.
The company has 70 years of history but now an uncertain future.
“Unfortunately the fire did do extensive damage to a lot of the production facility. We’re really hoping that once we get in and assess the damage, we’ll be able to say we can get things going again sooner rather than later,” Wilkerson Jr. said.
Some employees are unsure when they’ll work next, but Staylor said they’re in good hands. “It’s a good family owned business. They take real good care of us and I’m sure they still will,” he said.
Wilkerson Jr. and Staylor are thanking the six fire departments who responded, including the volunteer Crewe and Blackstone firefighters.
The vice president is also thankful for the support from Crewe community. “It’s great to be from a small town and have that kind of love,” he said.
According to Wilkerson Jr, the business was founded in 1947 and is a third-generation tire shop specializing in retreading aircraft tires. They provide tires for both airlines and private pilots. The company’s been at the East Virginia avenue location since the 1950’s. He said by the 1980’s, it’s estimated the company served 70 to 80 percent of the regional airline market.
This is a developing story. Stay with 8News for updates.