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Developer and investigator survey massive Old City fire

6:28 PM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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Update 6:00 p.m.

Employees with the developer that owns the building as well as the arson investigator surveyed the damage at the site Thursday.

Brian Hann, with Dewhirst Properties, said the company was in the design phase of the project.

"We kind of just started the acquisition phase of that, and we were kind of really hoping to get in and see what was under the new facade and see the old façade," said Hann. "We were really hoping to tie it together with the residential project that's going to be going on over here."

Dewhirst owns a property that sits across the street from the former Industrial Belting Supply Company.

"We're in the design phase for our White Lilly Project. It's kind of our first venture across the tracks here, it's going to be a really neat residential project," said Hann.

Thursday, the flooded streets turned the area into a construction zone, as crews broke apart the rubble to continue working on hot spots.

Captain DJ Corcoran, with the Knoxville Fire Department, said it might be some time until investigators can determine the cause.

The arson investigator at the scene Thursday afternoon said on Friday, crews will tear down a crumbling wall to make sure no one died it the fire.

The previous property owners told firefighters vagrants had been in the building recently. No one was supposed to be inside, but the power was on.

Corcoran said the previous owners still had some belongings stored in the building.

"I believe they had ten days, the previous owners, to remove some of their items inside that were still there," said Corcoran.

Hann said Dewhirst Properties had high hopes for the building and the area that sits behind the popular strip in Old City.

"It's a unique spot, it was a big city block. You know, there's several partners on the project and we tossed around all sorts of ideas, from mixed use, to retail, to market, to all sorts of stuff.

Hann said the flames won't burn the developer's plans for the future.

"This area really ties together 4th and Gill into downtown and the Old City. It's a crucial part of downtown redevelopment, said Hann. "You know, we're pretty optimistic that we'll just move on and pick up the pieces."

Update 12:05 p.m.

Arson investigators are waiting for firefighters to fully extinguish the fire before they can get inside to determine what started the fire.  Captain D. J. Corcoran says they have no reason at this point to suspect arson, but it is standard procedure for arson investigators to go in and determine the cause of a fire.

Firefighters are still spraying water on hot spots, and expect to do so for a couple more hours.

Depot Avenue remains closed.


Update 7:44 a.m.

Some fire crews worked into the morning hours at the scene of a large fire that destroyed part of a building in the Old City last night.

Crews continued to spray water on the former Industrial Belting Supply Company on the corner of Depot Avenue and Ogden Street to put out hot spots as arson investigators worked to determine the cause of the fire.

Update 4:00 a.m.:

Fire fighters were able to get the fire under control around 11:30 Wednesday night, two hours after it was first spotted.  A spokesperson for the Knoxville Fire Department says that around 288,000 gallons of water had been used to get the fire under control.

Investigators say that the east side of the building is a total loss while the west side, beyond the fire wall was not damaged.

Investigators are on the scene are working to try and determine a cause. There were no injures reported from the fire.

Update 12:19 a.m.:

The Old City fire in the Industrial Belting and Supply Company building is more than half way out, according to Knoxville Fire Department.

The 2nd alarm fire call came in at 9:30 p.m. where firefighters found the building fully engulfed in flames.

KFD spokesperson, DJ Corcoran, said 7,000 square feet of the 14,000 square foot building burned.

Corcoran said the building was not in use.  It was sold in September  2012 to downtown developer David Dewhirst.  He said there was electricity running to the building, but there was only office supplies inside.

No one is believed to have been inside.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this point, but Corcoran said there has been a history of vagrants trespassing in the building.

The building sits on the corner of Depot Street and Ogden Avenue, just a few blocks from popular bars and restaurants.  KFD has many of the roads blocked around the fire.  They are keeping an eye on nearby rooftops to make sure no embers started secondary fires to those businesses.

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Crews are battling a blaze on the corner of Depot Avenue and Ogden in the Industrial Belting and Supply Company building.

KFD says there are three aerial companies, seven engines, Hazmat and rescue on scene. That's a total of about 40 crews.

Flames are visible from the interstate.

Firefighters say the building has partially collapsed. They do not believe anyone was inside the building.

No cause is known at this time.

We have crews on the way. Stay with Channel 10 and for updates.

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