By Patrick McCreless

PATRICKM@CULLMANTIMES.COM

Officials recently ruled the fire that severely damaged the inside of the Alabama Career Center System of Cullman Monday evening was accidental.

“Most probably it was electrical,” Cullman Fire Marshal Chris Chaffin said Wednesday. “From what we were able to gather, it came from an extension cord.”

Reports from the Cullman City Fire Department indicate firefighters received a call about a structure fire on Katherine Street at approximately 9:22 p.m. Upon arrival, firefighters entered the career center building and knocked out the main fire within a few minutes. They then spent the next few hours salvaging the building and taking out hot spots.

The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire and nobody was injured.

The structure received various degrees of smoke and heat damage. Chaffin said he did not know if the building could be salvaged.

“It will need some extensive work,” he said.

Since 2001, Alabama Career Center System of Cullman has offered job information and training to the unemployed in Cullman and several neighboring counties. The center provides various programs, from social security benefits planning to Vocational Rehabilitation Service (VRS), which helps the disabled find employment.

Though the fire shut down all the center’s programs, it did not do so for long. The center quickly found temporary housing on the seventh floor of the Bevill Building at Wallace State Community College. On Tuesday afternoon, a mobile unit was stationed in the parking lot of the career center so people could still access job and training information.

To Lillian Butler, rehabilitation counselor for the VRS, the move to Wallace State was not a difficult one.

“For me the move was not difficult since my office was basically in the trunk of my car,” Butler said.

Butler said she has spent most of her time since the fire calling her clients. She said it will be the clients and not the employees of the career center who will be most impacted by the move.

“I have clients from all over Cullman and other counties,” Butler said. “Some have to drive 20 miles or more. With gas prices so high, that’s significant.”

To help her clients, Butler said she would be willing to meet them at the Cullman Mental Health Center if the drive to Wallace State is too far.

“Everything’s going to work out,” she said.

For more information about the career center, call 734-4911.

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