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Historic Buford warehouse burns in massive fire | News

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Historic Buford warehouse burns in massive fire
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BUFORD, GA (WXIA) – A huge fire struck a warehouse in downtown Buford Tuesday night – one so big that firefighters had to allow it to burn itself out.

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A lot of history was lost in the fire. The building was part of the once-world-renowned Bona Allen tannery, on East Moreno Street in Old Town Buford; the tannery opened in 1873.

In the 20th Century, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and other famous Hollywood cowboys would have their saddles custom made at the tannery. When American GIs went off to war in World War II, a lot of them fought while wearing Bona Allen boots.

The facility has not been a tannery since a big fire there in 1981 forced it out of business. Most recently, the building was occupied in part by a plumbing business. Part of the building was a warehouse.

Just before 7 p.m. Tuesday, someone walking by saw the fire and called 911.

When Gwinnett County firefighters arrived, half of the building was on fire with flames shooting through the roof and out the windows.

The building was made of masonry and heavy timber, so most of what was burning were the contents of the building – including plumbing chemicals.

Gwinnett Fire Captain Tommy Rutledge says fire investigators will be there at least through the night.

"We're trying to determine exactly -- through witnesses, through people that called it in to 911, through the occupants of the building -- trying to piece together what may have happened. Right now the cause of the fire is undetermined and under active investigation by the fire department," he said.

The plumbing company there was American Plumbing and Contracting. A company rep says they had just closed the business because the owners had retired, and they were in the process of moving out.

Firefighters said they believe no one was inside the building.

Part of the Bona Allen complex is on the National Register of Historic Places, so maybe some of the burned building will be salvaged as a salute to its glorious past.

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