Illegal burn disrupts condo fire response

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Fire heavily damaged the interior of this condo in West Knoxville on Thursday evening. (Source: KFD)

An illegal burn nearly caused firefighters to miss a simultaneous condominium fire in West Knoxville, authorities said Thursday night.

As it was, the blaze displaced a family of three who were living in the condo, said officials.

“Fires of this type … are always illegal in the City of Knoxville,” said Assistant Chief Mark Wilbanks of the Knoxville Fire Department. 

“This fire caused a significant distraction to responding crews and could (have) caused this fire to be much worse than it was,” he said.

The incident began at 7:39 p.m. when the E-911 Center took a call reporting the smell of smoke in the area of Piney Grove Church Road and Falling Leaves Circle, Wilbanks explained.

“The caller advised that the smoke was black and heavy,” he continued. “While searching for the source of the smoke, a small outside fire was discovered. However, it was quickly determined that this was not the source of the heavy smoke.”

Knoxville Fire Department units at Thursday’s fire on Piney Grove Church Road. (Source: KFD)

Soon, however, the first arriving engine company and the chief officer spotted a fire coming from some condominiums located at 944 Piney Grove Church Road, he said.

“The initial engine company was required to force entry into an apartment, and that company rapidly extinguished the fire,” Wilbanks said. 

The family who lived in the unit — comprised of two adults and a juvenile— weren’t home.

The apartment sustained heavy fire damage in an upstairs bedroom as well as smoke and water damage on the bottom floor, the assistant chief said.

No one was hurt and the American Red Cross was helping the family.

KFD investigators determined the fire was “accidental in nature due to a juvenile’s misuse of electronic equipment,” Wilbanks said. 

According to Wilbanks, there were two points of interest about Thursday night’s blaze. 

“The front master bedroom had a closed door at the time of the fire,” he explained. “The bedroom suffered little to no damage due to the door being closed. Simply closing a door can result in as much as 1000 degrees difference in temperatures between the fire room and the room behind a closed door…Closing a door can save lives.”

He then mentioned the outdoor fire that had eaten up valuable response time.

“Also, the above-mentioned outside fire was an illegal burn inside the city limits,” he said. “Currently there is a burn ban in Knox County due to the dry conditions.”

This closed door prevented Thursday’s fire from spreading into the next room. (Source: KFD)

Published on June 24, 2022.