Warehouse fires won't stand between the city and its plans for the future.
That's what Mayor Madeline Rogero said after a tour of the McClung Warehouse property Monday afternoon.
The mayor was in Turkey on government business when the fire broke out. When Deputy Mayor Bill Lyons called at 4:30 our time to let her know.
She knew it was something big, but not big enough to destroy the revitalization plan.
This is what it looked liked early Saturday morning. When we arrived minutes later, dozens of firefighters had knocked down the flames and were dousing hot spots. Investigators tell us the fire started on the third floor and homeless people are to blame. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero says, "We are now more determined than ever to preserve as best it can be done."
Determined to preserve the one building still standing - part of the plan to revitalize downtown. A structural engineer will tour the facility Tuesday morning to decide if it can stay or be torn down. Mayor Rogero says her heart goes out to the workers and tenants nearby.
Mayor Madeline Rogero says, "We know this is big inconvenience cause they aren't allowed in building. We can't allow that until we know it won't collapse."
This isn't the first time fire has ravaged these warehouses. The warehouse originally burned in 2007. There have been three other fires since then . The last one in September last year. They've tried to secure these buildings by boarding windows, installing razor wire and a metal door. Short of stationing 24 hour guards there, officials say you can't keep the homeless out. Knoxville Director of Redevelopment Bob Whetsel says, "We feel comfortable we did what we could do to secure the buildings. They are hard to secure."
Knoxville Fire Marshall Danny Beeler tells us they're trying to determine if the fire was arson or accidental. The floors in the building were soaked in kerosene for years to keep the wood moist which explains why it's so flammable.
The mayor has two goals. Her short term goal is to get tenants back in homes and offices, then determine the stability of the building and it's future. Mayor Rogero tells me her goal is to hand off the building to an owner by the end of the year.