KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — UPDATE (5/3/19 - 10:00 a.m.):  The massive fire that broke out at Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling on Wednesday afternoon is now extinguished, Knoxville Fire Department spokesperson DJ Corcoran confirmed to 10News.

Crews are continuing to work on hot spots on the property to make sure the fire does not rekindle. 

Corcoran said they are still concerned that if winds pick up today, the fire could rekindle, so fire crews are taking precautions to make sure the surrounding areas around hot spots there are doused. 

UPDATE (5/3/19 - 6:00 a.m.):  The Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling fire site was still smoking Friday morning. Crews have made significant progress. What was once a massive cloud of dark smoke has been reduced to white haze in the area, but the Knoxville Fire Department plans to stay on the scene of the recycling center for several more days looking for hot spots.

The Knox County Health Department said that right now it's tough for them to monitor exactly what's in the air from this fire.

“Our monitors are stationary, and they're designed to monitor air just over time and look at trends and help us see the impact of the air quality or the quality of the air across the county not in a single location,” Dr. Martha Buchanan with KCHD said.

As long as you are not in the smoke itself, experts say it's not at a level where it could really hurt you. People with asthma and respiratory issues are at higher risk, however.

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All evacuation orders have been lifted, but If you see or smell any smoke firefighters, ask that you move away from the area or shelter in place.

UPDATE (5/2/19 - 8:00 p.m.): The Knoxville Fire Department said people in the area near or downwind of the fire at the recycling center fire may see some smoke settling.

Some dark smoke began rising from the smoldering site Thursday evening. 

No evacuations were issued, but anyone that can see or smell smoke is told to move away from the area. If they cannot move, they are asked to stay inside, shut the door and windows, and turn off air conditioning.

UPDATE (5/2/19- 2:00 p.m.): Knoxville fire officials say that the fire at the Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling Center in North Knoxville is now under control. The evacuation order has been lifted.

Norfolk Southern Corp., which operates rail lines near the site, said Thursday it had "blocked off a small section of our track that is in close proximity to the fire. We have rerouted a few trains to minimize impact on rail operations, and will resume regular operations through the area once it is safe to do so."

After the fire broke out Wednesday afternoon, the rail operator stopped traffic in the area so that fire and other emergency vehicles could get in and out.

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UPDATE (5/2/19- 12:00 p.m.): Approximately 60 homes are still under a mandatory evacuation on Morelia Ave as Knoxville fire crews continue to fight a massive fire at the Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling Center in North Knoxville, Knoxville Fire Department spokesperson DJ Corcoran told 10News.

Fire crews have made significant progress in eliminating the fire, with the smoke significantly reduced and much lighter in color than the huge black plume seen across East Tennessee on Wednesday afternoon.

Fire crews continue to rotate in and out to keep firefighters fresh. 

UPDATE (5/2/19- 6:00 a.m.): Knoxville fire crews made significant headway overnight as they continued to fight a massive fire at the Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling Center in North Knoxville.

The fire was considered contained as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, but there are still elements on the property that could potentially burn and is therefore not under control, according to Knoxville Fire Department spokesperson DJ Corcoran.

Corcoran explained people in the area could now smell the fire much more so than yesterday as fire crews put out certain spots of the fire.

He added that people nearby should be okay to turn their HVAC units back on, but to use common sense. If there is a strong smell when you turn it on, turn it off, he said. If there is no smell, it should be all right to use the unit.

Firefighters had to knock down a large building on the property as part of their efforts to put the fire out, Corcoran said.

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“There’s one building in there that’s about an acre itself. That’s where some of the equipment that was shredding stuff and making it recyclable [was located]," he said. "They had to knock it down in order to get water to underneath the roof because otherwise, it was sort of looking like an umbrella. You’re spraying in it from the top, and it’s just running off. It wasn’t getting where it needed to get.”

Crews used about 180,000 gallons of water to fight the fire overnight, Corcoran said, with three aerial fire trucks in place around the facility.

Fire crews are also currently working with Norfolk Southern to clear the railroad tracks near Atlantic Ave. to ensure the company does not have issues with its operations.

UPDATE (5/2/19- 5:00 a.m.): Knoxville fire crews made significant headway overnight as they continued to fight a massive fire at the Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling Center in North Knoxville.

Firefighters dug through the rubble on the property's facility to get down to the core of the fire, and have cut the size of the fire in half since Wednesday night, according to Knoxville Fire Department spokesperson DJ Corcoran.

He said the fire could, however, continue to burn for days. One of the aspects that makes the fire difficult to put out is the fact that the plastic in the rubble piles will melt and crust above the fire as it continues to burn inside the pile, which makes it difficult to put out. 

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While firefighters had hoped it would not rain Wednesday, because that could push and hold down the toxic smoke from the fire, Corcoran said they would welcome some today to help put the fire out.

About 100 homes that had been evacuated Wednesday night are still under a voluntary evacuation for approximately a 13-block area near the fire from Morelia Avenue to Banks Avenue, to Kenyon Street to Atlantic Avenue, back to Pershing Street.

KFD put the evacuation in place as a precautionary measure after metal fragments landed in an alleyway in the neighborhood due to explosions caused by the fire, Corcoran said. At that point, firefighters, media and residents were moved away from the area. 

UPDATE (10:00 p.m.): 

Knoxville fire crews are now evacuating nearly 100 homes out of precaution as winds and rain continue to shift smoke around from a massive fire at the Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling Center.

The evacuation was extended to cover a larger 13-block area near the fire from Morelia Avenue to Banks Avenue, to Kenyon Street to Atlantic Avenue, back to Pershing Street.

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Evacuees should make their way to the Emerald Youth Foundation at 1718 Central Avenue. The American Red Cross is partnering with foundation to help those displaced by the fire evacuations. 

KFD said they are also getting reports of smoke in areas northeast of the fire. Those areas are not under mandatory evacuation, but they say people experiencing heavy smoke should use their best judgement and evacuate if they feel it necessary. Otherwise, those people should shut their windows and doors and stay inside. 

Knox County Schools confirmed all schools will be in session Thursday as normal. Christenberry Elementary School had to be put on a soft lockdown Wednesday afternoon to keep kids indoors and away from the smoke as a precaution. 

The Knoxville Fire Department's focusing on battling the fire overnight, and say it could take days to completely extinguish all the hot spots. KFD believes a propane-fueled forklift backfiring may have sparked the fire, but a thorough investigation into the cause won't happen until after the flames have been extinguished.  

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After the fire had started, many people reported hearing explosions -- which KFD said was likely those propane tanks exploding.  

UPDATE (6:00 p.m.): Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling is owned by Jason Bales and his brother. He told 10News he was "in shock" about the fire. Bales said he was in a building on the property when the fire started and it was horrifying to see how quickly it started to spread.

Bales was very thankful no one was hurt, and said they did have insurance.

The explosions that have been heard as the fire burned were likely propane tanks that they use to fuel fork lifts, Bales said.

UPDATE (5:30 p.m.): Knoxville fire officials say the fire at Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling is contained. They say it doesn't mean the fire is necessarily under control, but they don't believe it will spread any further.

The evacuation order will remain as a precaution.

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UPDATE (5:00 p.m.): Fire investigators believe the biggest parts of the fire burning at a waste and recycling facility in North Knoxville have been contained. 

The fire at Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling on Hancock Street started around 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, KFD Captain DJ Corcoran said.

He said a piece of equipment backfired and kicked the fire into a pile of compressed paper. From there, the fire just simply continued to grow. 

It has now taken over two acres of land, Corcoran said.

Plastics, wood, paper, and cardboard are on fire. Fire investigators said the loud booms people are hearing are propane tanks exploding. 

No one has been reported injured, KFD said.

Corcoran said crews may need to use earth movers and bulldozers to get everything that's burning and that process could day days. 

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said it is monitoring the situation and staying in close communication with emergency officials. 

"Once the fire has been contained, we can begin to assess environmental impacts," TDEC deputy communications director Kim Schofinski said. 

In the last five years, there have been two inspections at the facility. One was for safety and one was for health, according to the Tennesee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

UPDATE (4:00 p.m.):  The Knox County Health Department said air quality in north Knoxville could be affected by the fire as it continues to burn.

"Those in the area who are having any physical symptoms associated with smoke exposure (trouble breathing, chest pain, etc.) that don’t resolve after going inside or after taking their prescribed medications should seek medical care immediately," a news release from the health department said. 

Knox County Air Quality Director Lynne Liddington provided residents with advice on what to do if they're near the smoke.

“To protect your health, it’s important to remember that if you can see or smell smoke, move away from the area,” she said in the release. “If you cannot move away from the smoke, shut your doors and windows and turn off your air conditioning units. If you are driving through the smoke, roll up your windows and turn your air conditioning to recirculate, so you are not drawing the smoke into the vehicle.”

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): The Knoxville Fire Department is now evacuating approximately 65 homes. The homes affected are on the south side of the fire from Morelia Ave. from Pershing St. to Cornelia, a tweet from KFD said. 

They are being evacuated to the Emerald Youth building on Central Ave, where the Red Cross will be on site to assist. Buses are at Cornelia and Morelia to take residents away from the scene, the Knoxville Police Department added in a tweet.

EMERGENCY EVACUATION ALERT: The Knoxville Fire Department has issued a mandatory evacuation order for the areas of Morelia Avenue between Cornelia and Pershing. There are buses at the corner of...

KFD spokesperson DJ Corcoran said they decided not to wait until it's too late to evacuate those nearby.

Corcoran they've been dealing with explosions and wind shift as they work to fight the fire, but there are no injuries to civilians or firefighters at this time.

About 40-50 firefighters are working there now. They have had several propane tanks explode on the property, and KUB has cut gas lines and electricity to the property.

They are hoping it does not rain because that would negatively affect their efforts to put out the fire.

Trash fire blocks sun
Thick smoke rising from the fire covered the sky in Knoxville Wednesday.
Brandon Bates/WBIR

The current clear air conditions allow the smoke to escape upwards, officials said. Rain would push the smoke down and negatively affect the low ceiling and could trap chemicals. 

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Corcoran said a fire of this magnitude will create its own winds as it sucks for air to feed itself.

Firefighters have not had any issues with people coming too close to the scene, and those nearby have been very respectful as they work to protect people and their homes, Corcoran continued.

Fires like this are difficult to put out, said Corcoran, because the source of the fire is buried under so much debris. It's very labor-intensive and could take days.

The owner told fire investigators that a piece of equipment backfired and a plume of smoke ignited a pile of paper. Arson investigators are on the scene and will confirm what started the fire.

KUB said they had cut power to about 700 homes for a short time to make sure that infrastructure is not damaged. Most power is back on for residents.

KFD is not concerned about air quality for the general public, but people in the immediate area affected by the heavy black smoke should leave if possible. If they cannot leave, they should close doors and windows and turn off their HVAC unit.

Paper, cardboard, and plastic is burning at the site, which is what the company recycles. The burning plastic is what's causing that heavy, black smoke.

The fire is about one acre of a 10-acre lot, KFD said. They are working to keep it from spreading. They don't believe there's any danger to nearby homes. There have been no reported injuries.

UPDATE (3:00 p.m.):  Explosions can be heard from the site of the large fire at the Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling center. Crews on the scene say that could be fuel tanks exploding.

The Salvation Army is opening up its gym to those who have left the immediate area because of heavy smoke from the fire, or who have lost power of been forced to turn off their air conditioning. It's located at 409 North Broadway. They are offering food and a cool play to stay if needed. If the residents are able, they're asked to bring a pillow or sleeping back with them.

KFD is not concerned about air quality for the general public, but people in the immediate area affected by the heavy black smoke should leave if possible. If they cannot leave, they should close doors and windows and turn off their HVAC unit.

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): The Knoxville Fire Department said it could take hours, possibly days to put out a massive fire that has broken out at Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling on Wednesday afternoon.

"It's a big trash fire," said Capt. DJ Corcoran. 

What's burning is paper, cardboard, and plastic, which is what the company recycles. The burning plastic is what's causing that heavy, black smoke.

The fire is about one acre of a 10-acre lot, KFD said. They are working to keep it from spreading. They don't believe there's any danger to nearby homes. There have been no reported injuries.

Fires like this are difficult to put out, said Corcoran, because the source of the fire is buried under so much debris. It's very labor-intensive and could take days.

The owner told fire investigators that a piece of equipment backfired and a plume of smoke ignited a pile of paper. Arson investigators are on the scene and will confirm what started the fire.

KUB said they had cut power to about 700 homes for a short time to make sure that infrastructure is not damaged. Most power is back on for residents.

Fire officials are not concerned about air quality because most of the smoke is dissipating in the atmosphere. Only people in the immediate area affected by the heavy, black smoke are asked to move to an unaffected area or shelter in place with the doors shut and HVAC turned off.

\UPDATE (2:10 p.m.): The Knoxville Fire Department has asked residents in the area to evacuate if they are in the area that is being affected by the black smoke from a massive fire that has broken out at on the property of Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling.

KFD says if people in the area are unable to leave the area they should shelter in place and turn off their HVAC unit.

Original Story: A large plume of black smoke can be seen across most of Knoxville as a massive fire has broken out at on the property of Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling.

The building is located at 2742 Hancock Street, which is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in North Knoxville.

No one in the building was injured, according to the Knoxville Fire Department. All 25 employees inside at the time of the fire had been accounted for as of 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Propane tanks stored at the location also exploded, KFD told 10News. It was considered a 2 Alarm fire as of 2 p.m. They are urging residents to avoid breathing in the fumes and to shelter inside. 

Mutual aid is coming from Rural Metro Fire, KFD said.

The fire department is on the scene, and tweeted that the fire is in the recycling yard. It said paper cardboard and plastic is burning as crews work to extinguish the fire. 

KFD said not the entire 10 acre lot was on fire and expected to be on scene "a long time."

10News reporters on the scene said they experienced multiple explosions and saw pieces of flying burning cardboard several blocks away from the fire.

Christenberry Elementary School is on a soft lockdown. No one is allowed to leave the building at this time, a staff member told 10News. Buses can not currently get to the school because the roads are blocked as firefighters work to put out the fire.

DJ Corcoran, a spokesman for KFD, told 10News the fire likely started from a backfire from a vehicle used to transport items. KFD believes flames shout out of the exhaust pipe, which set some of the materials stored there on fire. 

Knoxville Fire
Rebecca Nealy

We have multiple crews on scene and will update the story as we get more information.