NORMAN PARK — A Thursday afternoon fire destroyed an old bowling alley that bystanders described as a county landmark.

Helen Chafin, who owns the building at the end of Willis Lake Road, said that the fire appeared suspicious.

The fire apparently started in the woods on the other side of the road from the building on land that belongs to another owner, Chafin said.

Chafin said she had been away but returned home, and did not notice the fire until about 30 minutes afterwards.

“All of a sudden I walked to the door and it was already in the woods,” she said. “I said that was fast. I called 911.”

Chafin questioned how the fire could have ignited the concrete block building, which was not close to the woods and was surrounded by grass.

The building had been a bowling alley, but had not been used for that purpose in decades, she said. She said her husband, L.B. Chafin Jr., who is deceased, paid his way through college by setting pins by hand at the establishment.

“A lot of my husband’s things were in there, his tools and all, that was in there,” she said. “It’s just sad to see a piece of history go like that went.”

Firefighters were unable to save the structure. As they fought the flames in the building, small blazes could be seen in the woods behind it.

Firefighters from Culbertson, Ellenton, Livingston Bridge, Norman Park, Northside, Omega, and Southside volunteer departments responded to the blaze. The Georgia Forestry Department also responded to the woods fire.

At the scene, firefighters were battling the blaze and said they had no additional information on it.

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