By Captain D.J. Corcoran
Knoxville (TN) Fire Department
At 9:30 p.m., a call was received at the 911 Dispatch Center, reporting the former Industrial Belting Supply Company at the corner of Depot Ave. and Ogden St. was burning. The building stretches approximately 200 feet on the front and is 70-feet deep. There are three fire walls that quarter the building into 50x70 sections. Half of this 14,000-square-foot building was fully involved with fire when Knoxville (TN) firefighters arrived.
Seeing the potential for fire extension, the incident commander called for additional personnel by turning in a second alarm, this gave a total of seven pumpers, three aerials, a rescue truck, a hazardous material truck, and between 40 to 50 firefighters. Large diameter hoses (LDH) were connected to several hydrants to establish a water supply for the three aerials. Attack lines were also drawn from the pumpers, all with the same purpose of holding the fire at bay along the middle firewall while pushing flames back toward the most burnt eastward half of the building.
A partial collapse of exterior walls on the front (A) side, and back (C) side of the structure occurred around 10:00 p.m. which indicates the fire had gone undetected for a period of time. Firefighters continued making progress knocking flames back as embers from the fire floated over to rooftops in the Old City. The chief on the scene called for firefighting crews to gain access to the roofs of the threatened buildings to ensure no secondary fires were started at those businesses. KUB confirmed with the fire commander that utilities (power and gas) for the entire block where the building sat had been shut off.
At 11:20 p.m., our rehab bus and port-a-potty was established to give firefighters a warm and discreet place to take a break. The fire was considered under control around 11:37 p.m. with attack lines still deployed, focusing on hot spots underneath the debris. At 12:00 a.m. back hoes were called in to remove the fallen roof material and expose hidden fires to the handheld water streams. Fire apparatus and manpower were scaled back to eventually two pumper companies, with the others being sent back to their original fire stations.
The building had been sold last fall to an area developer and sat empty awaiting a new purpose. The previous owner was on site and stated that there had been problems with vagrants breaking into the building in the past. Arson Investigators are on the scene and will begin working to determine the cause of the fire. Approximately 288,000 gallons of water were used to bring the fire under control. The east side of the building appears to be a total loss, while the west side, beyond the firewall remains undamaged and entacked No injuries are reported at this time. Depot Ave will remain closed throughout the morning.