The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating after the Deckerd Fire Department and firefighters from neighboring agencies battled a multi-building fire on East Main Street in the Franklin County town’s business district.
Several buildings were closed while firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze, which included two main buildings and some adjacent secondary buildings, according to Deckerd Fire Chief Chuck Williams.
“It was very difficult to control the situation there for a while,” Williams said by phone. “At one point, we were pouring 2,000 gallons a minute for probably two hours to contain that fire and cut it down.”
He said five nearby agencies responded to assist with the fire.
The fire was reported at 1:28 a.m. Tuesday in a short block of businesses on East Main Street, across from the city post office, according to Deckerd Fire Department posts on social media. Traffic was temporarily redirected while firefighters battled the flames.
“When firefighters arrived on scene, flames were already shooting through the roof of the old grocery store,” Williams said, noting that the building is now used for storage. “The building next to it with the rock in front was being renovated, and part of the roof there burned down, and then stopped. The Gamble complex next to it had water damage.”
Tennessee real estate records show that part of the ruined building was built in 1900, and the other part was built in 1908. Records show that the rock building dates to 1928.
The owners of all the buildings involved are insured, the fire chief said. Meanwhile, Williams and other firefighters will be checking the site frequently as they watch for any re-ignition over the next day or so until the rain forecast eases on Thursday and Friday.
(Read more: Breezy forecast has officials monitoring wildfire spread in Chattanooga area)
The TBI is investigating the incident as an assisting agency, Susan Niland, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an email. She did not answer questions about whether foul play was suspected, and Williams declined to comment until the investigation into the cause was completed.
There was no connection between the downtown Deckerd fire and wildfires that have appeared in recent days, sparked by the state’s ongoing drought, but as Williams spoke by phone Wednesday afternoon, fire crews responded to a wildfire in northern Franklin County.
“It’s on Hickory Hollow Road, and it started with about 2 acres and now it’s about 5 acres,” Williams said. “Decherd, Estill Springs and Forestry are right there,” he said of the fire departments that assisted on the call.
A Tennessee Department of Forestry wildfire map showed Wednesday that active wildfires in southeast Tennessee have not gotten much worse, though the McGunkin Road fire in Polk County is still ongoing, and other nearby fires have since been extinguished, according to officials.
(Read more: Multiple wildfires burning in northwest Georgia; one turns out to be arson)
The fire was 90% contained by Wednesday afternoon, Polk County Emergency Management Agency Director Steve Lofty said. Thanks to mutual aid agreements Polk entered into between the three states, 11 agencies from neighboring counties and states helped fight the fire.
Having so many fires happen in such a short time makes Luffy suspect foul play.
“We have multiple locations that catch fire within two to three days,” he said. “I know this can happen, but it looks a little suspicious to me. If you see something suspicious, call 911.”
Contact Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.