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Fire chars mail truck
Carrier OK, but tax bills destroyed
mail truck 6 jd
Authorities haven't determined exactly what caused this mail truck to burst into flames Tuesday afternoon in an eastern Forsyth County neighborhood. - photo by Jim Dean (previous profile)

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall disrupt mail delivery. But fire, well, it appears that can cause some delays.

A mail truck carrying property tax bills burst into flames Tuesday afternoon while making the rounds in an eastern Forsyth County neighborhood.

The blaze, which officials believe started in the truck's engine compartment, kept the postal worker from completing her route in the Sweetwater subdivision near Buford Dam.

Michael Miles, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, identified the carrier as Valerie Coleman from the Cumming Post Office. She was not injured in the fire.

Miles, who since 1997 has represented the postal service region that stretches from Macon to north Georgia, said the incident is rare.

"With a letter carrier's truck, I don't know if I can remember another instance," he said. "I can remember a couple of instances [involving] the mail transport trucks, the trucks bringing the mail to the offices for the carriers to deliver to various neighborhoods . We had a contract carrier have a problem out on I-20 in the Powder Springs area a while back."

The exact cause of Tuesday's fire has not been determined.

Forsyth County Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said the truck was ablaze when firefighters arrived about 1:50 p.m. The flames were under control within minutes.

The blaze gutted the truck, melting the interior and damaging all of the mail inside. Shivers said firefighters recovered two large plastic bins of mail, which included county property tax bills.

“While it’s a rare occurrence, securing mail in an incident like this is of our utmost concern,” Shivers said.

Jodi Gardner, a county government spokeswoman, said the tax commissioner's office plans to get a list from the postal service of all the addresses on the route.

The office will then begin printing and mailing duplicate bills for those who didn't receive them Tuesday.

Miles said investigators will sort through the mail to determine to whom it was addressed and notify customers that their mail was destroyed.

“Obviously, under the circumstances it may be very difficult if not impossible to do that,” he said.

He said Coleman was about halfway through her route when the truck caught fire.

“She noticed a leak and flames coming from under her vehicle,” Miles said. “She attempted to extinguish the fire with a hose that was located at the customer’s yard where she was delivering, but the flames got to be too much and completely engulfed and ultimately destroyed the vehicle.”

Miles said he did not know how long Coleman has worked for the post office.

Dick Powers has lived in Sweetwater for 19 years.

He stopped by to check on Coleman, who he said has been his carrier for at least six years.

“She’s one of the best,” he said. “If you come back from vacation and have a lot of mail, she always brings it right up to the door instead of just packing it all in the box ... I guess I won’t be getting that property tax bill.”

Online Editor Jim Dean contributed to this report.