Knoxville (WVLT) -- Rural/Metro firefighters are now trying to figure out whether a welding torch, or something else was what sparked a fire that's destroyed a Knox County business. That business is the Volunteer Highway Supply Company which has been around for a quarter century.
By all accounts it started off different then your normal fire.
"Don't worry about it, it's sonic booms," said Tom Mozur, a local tennis pro who happen to be teaching a group of 10 to 13 year olds when the fire broke out. "The another boom happened, don't pay attention to it. Then another and I said it's not possible to have three sonic booms in a row."
Mozur was right, and within minutes 50 to 60 people were evacuated from the YMCA he was teaching inside of.
Volunteer Highway Supply is a company responsible for painting lines on roads and highways. They have contracts throughout the region. Paints and solvents used in that business can often be flammable.
"It was like a barrelfull of chemicals or something," said North Side YMCA manager Steve Hunter. "It didn't go way up in the sky, but you could hear it like a boom."
Hunter knew his neighbors might not know how to react in the obvious emergency situation.
"I saw one guy over there with a garden hose trying to put it out."
Rural/Metro was quick on the scene, bringing with them a Hazmat unit. They had Maynardville Pike closed down in minutes and crowds pushed back just in case of a larger explosion.
"We found they had two sheds on the exterior of the build that they house a lot of chemicals and products they were using on the roads," said Rural/Metro Battalion Chief T.D. Williams, "They were completely involved in the fire."
The flames turned to smoke and smolders quickly, shifting the concern of crews.
"...It's mixed with you know, petroleum products and hydrocarbons," Williams says. "We got a catch basin behind this facility."
And the basin did its job, trapping potentially poisoned water that was cascading off the building.
And then as crews turn off the hoses, traffic was finally allowed to come back through. It moved at the pace of a funeral procession, partly for safety and party to rubberneck.
It was the tennis less Tom Mozur's tweenage pupils won't soon forget.
"They said it was the first fire they'd seen this close and they were pretty excited about it.
Wanted to get closer. I said no, better come back here and hit a few more tennis balls."
Nobody was hurt in the fire.
Owners tell firefighters they plan to rebuild or re-open their business in the future.
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