High Winds Whip Up Tennessee Warehouse Fire

No injuries were reported in connection with a large warehouse fire on Sunday, April 25, but it was a close call for some Chattanooga firefighters.

The fire was reported around 11:30 a.m. at an abandoned warehouse at Enterprise South. A man using a cutting torch to remove pipe from the old building told firefighters that he accidentally set the building on fire.

Battalion Chief Winston Shields was among the first responders to arrive on the scene. With winds gusting from 20 to 25 mph, the flames spread quickly through the wooden structure and were beginning to threaten other nearby abandoned warehouses. Chief Shields called for a second alarm response to bring in additional firefighters and equipment.

One of the first arriving fire companies, Quint 6, pulled up fairly close to the fire and raised its aerial to spray water on the top of the building. Captain Teri Rose said they were making some progress when the winds shifted and very quickly threatened to envelope the fire truck and its firefighters.

Captain Rose immediately ordered the firefighters to pack up the truck and back away from the flames. They escaped without serious injuries. The only visible damage to the fire truck was some melted plastic. Shortly after the firefighters with Quint 6 pulled back, there was a loud explosion in the burning structure. Firefighters don't know for sure what caused the explosion, but suspect it could have been the acetylene tank the worker was using with his cutting torch.

Firefighters from 11 fire companies surrounded the structure with hand-held hoselines and master streams from the fire apparatus. Despite the high winds, the bulk of the blaze was eventually brought under control, but the firefighters were expected to remain on the scene for hours putting out hot spots.

A fire investigator was called to confirm the cause of the fire. Chattanooga police, Hamilton County EMS and Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue also provided valuable assistance.