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A fire the day before Thanksgiving engulfed this historic home in Rockford. Photo courtesy of Coosa County Ambulance
Volunteers with many of the county’s volunteer fire departments responded to help control the fire, preventing it from spreading to other residences and the neighboring gas station. Photo(s) courtesy of Coosa County Ambulance
A file photo of the historic house that burned, which was home of the Rockford Telephone Company from 1941 to 1952, located near the town’s 4-way stop.
Ernie Lee Cowart sits next to the Rockford telephone switchboard, her companion for 32 years. The switchboard moved when the family moved, and it was located in the house near the 4-way stop for 11 years.
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
On the eve of Thanksgiving, a historic home in Rockford was destroyed by fire, with numerous departments responding to help keep the blaze under control.
At about 10:30 a.m. last Wednesday, November 22, the Coosa County Ambulance was passing through the intersection of Alabama Highway 22 and U.S. Highway 231 at the 4-way stop in Rockford when the crew, paramedic Tyler Shaw and advanced basic Yancey Brown, saw smoke pouring out of a residence just north of the intersection.
They called 911 to report the fire and responded to the scene, observing the 64-year-old male resident attempting to push a couch out of the window. Shaw proceeded to run up to the house and into the living room, grabbing the resident and pulling him outside to safety, according to reports.
According to Brown, in a matter of seconds after getting the man outside and on the sidewalk, the living room and porch experienced flashover, and the house was engulfed in flames.
Fire units who responded to the scene were Rockford Volunteer Fire Department (VFD), Kellyton VFD, Ray VFD, Hanover VFD, Equality VFD, and Stewartville VFD, as well as Coosa County Emergency Management Agency.
Coosa County Ambulance staff reported that the volunteer fire departments “responded with phenomenal response times” and that they “were able to get the fire under control before it spread to surrounding houses.”
Traffic remained backed up on the highways, with some being rerouted, as they worked to contain the fire. Crews also remained on scene extinguishing hotspots from the fire for many hours, until at 1 p.m. the fire was determined to be extinguished.
The homeowner was evaluated and released on scene by Coosa County EMS. While the resident was not injured, the house is considered a complete loss.
The historic home, which was most recently an antique shop and residence, located just north of the 4-way stop in Rockford and directly next door to the Mapco gas station, has been an icon of Rockford through the years.
The old Cowart home, it housed the Rockford Telephone Company from 1941 until 1952, when Audie and Ernie Lee Cowart sold the phone company. For those 11 years, the Cowarts maintained the telephone lines and operated the telephone switchboard from the home with help from their daughter, Mavis Sallas.
While the house may be destroyed by fire, the families and many others in Rockford will have memories of the historic home that stood for so many years, greeting generations of individuals living in and passing through Rockford.