Crews work through the night as Tennessee trash fire burns

Blaze could take hours - even days - to extinguish, firefighters say

Drone footage of the fire at recycling center in North Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/Gray News) - The Knoxville Fire Department has ruled the fire at a North Knox recycling center contained, and they say they’re comfortable it won’t spread, and power to all homes has been restored as of 6 p.m.

At around 10:30 p.m., KFD reported that, due to rain, smoke was going to areas around the fire. If you’re in those areas, “use good judgement,” KFD said, “leave the area if necessary.” KPD said they will be assisting KFD overnight and into tomorrow with scene security and road closures.

If you can’t leave the area, KFD said shut your windows and doors, turn off HVAC and shelter in place.

Residents on the south side of a fire at a North Knox recycling center are being evacuated. KFD said the evacuation is mandatory and includes about 100 homes for Morelia Ave to Banks Ave to Kenton St. to Atlanta Ave.

Large fire burns at Knoxville recycling plant

People are asked to go to the Emerald Youth Foundation at 1718 N. Central Ave. Police officers can assist those without transportation. The Red Cross has opened an emergency shelter there for those displaced from their homes.

Current road closures:

  • Pershing at Cedar
  • Pershing at Atlantic
  • Pershing at W. Morelia
  • Pershing at Radford
  • Radford at W. Glenwood
  • Pershing at Banks
  • Atlantic at W. Glenwood
  • Burwell at Harvey
  • Burwell at Hancock
  • Burwell at Cornelia
  • Morelia at Cornelia
  • North Street at McMillan
  • Metler at Radford
  • Atlantic at McMurray
  • Felts at Cedar
  • 800 block of Radford

Fire Captain D.J. Corcoran said the smoke is black because it is rife with toxic chemicals from recycling plant materials such as plastic and rubber that are burning.

The smoke plume was so large, that television station WVLT could see it on its weather radar.

North Knoxville Fire

Black smoke is filling the air as KFD works to battle a North Knoxville blaze. The story:

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Corcoran says this fire is difficult because it is not a typical structure fire, instead its materials are fueling the flame. Crews are bringing in an excavator to dig through the all the trash to find the core of the fire.

The Knoxville Fire Department said a flame shot from a forklift into a pile a paper could be the cause of a massive fire at the Fort Loudon Waste and Recycling Center at 2742 Hancock Street in North Knoxville.

KFD said anyone who is in close proximity to the area should leave the area or shelter in place.

The Knoxville Utilities Board said there are no issues in water supply as firefighters battle the blaze. KUB added there are no issues with water runoff at this time.

According to the Knox County Health Department, fires like the one at the recycling center can affect air quality.

“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,” the health department said.

As of about 4:20 p.m., the health department had not issued an official “air quality alert.”

Smoke from a fire at a recycling plant can be seen for miles in Knoxville, Tenn.
Smoke from a fire at a recycling plant can be seen for miles in Knoxville, Tenn. (Source: WVLT)

Twenty-five employees who were working at the plant were safely evacuated. No injuries have been reported so far.

The area of the fire has grown from one acre to an acre and a half. Corcoran said it could take hours or days to completely put out the blaze.

The Salvation Army of Knoxville announced it was opening its gym for anyone displaced by the fire.

“We are opening our air conditioned gym and providing water an dinner to those that need it tonight,” Salvation Army said.

They ask anyone who comes to bring a pillow and blanket.

KUB said they have cut power to 700 homes in the vicinity of the fire as well as gas lines as a safety precaution.

The sounds of explosions near the fire are likely propane tanks, according to fire crews.

Officials said the call came in shortly after 1:00 p.m. According to the Tennessee State Secretary, the recycling center filed for business in 2009.

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