August 1, 2008

Business Fire Was A Hot One For Firefighters

By Michael Owens, Bristol Herald Courier, Va.

Aug. 1--PINEY FLATS, Tenn. -- A firefighter with smoke grime covering his face tilted a bottle of Gatorade to his lips as he sauntered away from the fire engine.

"It's the hottest one I've been in in a while," he said of the smoldering warehouse behind him.

Three volunteer fire departments teamed together just after 5:30 p.m. Thursday to battle a blaze at Thompson Metal Services Inc., 288 Old Mountain View Road in Piney Flats.

Brad Thompson, owner of the scrap metal business, watched from just yards away as the roof caved in and thick smoke billowed toward thick clouds.

It was a short in a Bobcat tractor, he speculated. The tractor had just come from a repair shop because of faulty hydraulics, Thompson said. Now this.

"I'm just glad that warehouse is empty," he said.

Most of his business is run at a Kingsport, Tenn., facility. The Piney Flats scrap yard, recently put up for sale, is run by one or two workers.

More than a dozen weary firefighters bathed in sweat and grime knelt by their helmets and watched as a pair of ladder trucks blasted water at the blaze.

The firefighters, from the volunteer departments of Piney Flats, Avoca, and Bluff City, had already fought the flames from inside.

Piney Flats Volunteer Fire Department Chief Todd Justice pulled them out when the smoke grew too thick for the firefighters to see. He would send them back inside after enough smoke escaped through the open roof.

Until then, the firefighters could cool off in the sudden rain downpour.

"It feels good. As long as it doesn't lightning, that's what we're worried about," Justice said.

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