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KFD remembers McClung fires 5 years later

2:29 AM, Feb 7, 2012   |    comments
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Tuesday marks the 5th anniversary of the McClung Warehouse fires in downtown Knoxville.


The fire injured three Knoxville firefighters as it consumed two buildings along Jackson Avenue.  According to KUB, it took enough water to fill nine Olympic sized swimming pools to put the fire out.

KFD Assistant Chief Victor Lawson worked as an incident commander the day the fire began.  He arrived on scene when the second build caught aflame later in the day.

Lawson said it is a day all firefighters at the downtown station remember.  However, they do not talk about it much.

"It tells us as bad as we are taxed with labor and our people... we can always get the job done," Lawson said.  "We're here everyday, 24/7, and we're ready for whatever happens."

Jeff Kindrick, Joe Lee and Jeff Lee were some of the firefighters who were injured trying to put out the blaze.

Kindrick told 10News it's hard for any firefighter to foresee a fire like the one that occurred at McClung before it happens.

"I'm just glad it happened when I was in the company of firefighters far better than me," Kindrick said.  "We had each other to rely on and we all got out of there."

Kindrick and the Lee brothers were on a higher floor within one of the building.  They escaped by climbing down a hose off the side of a building.

Many people who work and live in downtown Knoxville watched on as the fire raged in the McClung warehouse.

One of those people were David Cockrill, CEO of Red Chair Architects.  At the time the fire occurred, he was working in the Arnstein building downtown.  He said he could see the impact of the fire from blocks away.

"Something was falling from the air, and it was cold weather out, I thought maybe it was snowing or something," Cockrill said.  "But, it was black and bouncing off my khaki colored overcoat and then I noticed a lot of the awnings around town had little smoldering holes in them."

KFD still has yet to determine a cause to the fire.  The building's former owner, Mark Saroff is currently suing KCDC because he believes the group lowered the property value of the building when they recommended it be condemned.

Since then, Saroff has filed for bankruptcy and the building has been placed into the hands of a trustee who is looking to sell it.

In recent months, a few smaller fires have occurred in the McClung Warehouse.  KFD believes those fires have been set by homeless people looking for shelter.


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