Knoxville mayor tours McClung fire site, discusses its future

Knoxville mayor tours McClung fire site, discusses its future

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Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero toured the site of the McClung warehouses Monday following another massive fire there over the weekend. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero toured the site of the McClung warehouses Monday following another massive fire there over the weekend.
The derelict buildings caught fire early Saturday, engulfing the two remaining structures. One of those buildings partially collapsed. The derelict buildings caught fire early Saturday, engulfing the two remaining structures. One of those buildings partially collapsed.
"This is heart breaking to lose this one building. Hopefully we'll keep the other one but if not we'll do what we need to do to move ahead," said Mayor Rogero. "This is heart breaking to lose this one building. Hopefully we'll keep the other one but if not we'll do what we need to do to move ahead," said Mayor Rogero.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero toured the site of the McClung warehouses Monday following another massive fire there over the weekend. This was the first time the mayor had the opportunity to see the damage first hand.

The derelict buildings caught fire early Saturday, engulfing the two remaining structures. One of those buildings partially collapsed. The Knoxville Fire Department demolished the rest of it. So far there have been no reports of any deaths or injuries.

The same complex burned back in February of 2007, destroying three of the original five buildings. Several firefighters were injured and a fire truck was crushed by falling debris.

Since Saturday, firefighters have been on the scene around the clock.Two fire fighters were on watch Monday night, making sure the fire didn't rekindle and that the building was secure. West Jackson Avenue in front of the building remains closed.

Structural engineers are expected on the site Tuesday morning to determine if the building is safe and can be preserved. Mayor Rogero says when the engineers complete their report and the building is deemed safe, the street will reopen.

"We can't allow that until we know that the building is such that it won't collapse on cars or on residences here," said Mayor Rogero.

According to Fire Marshal Danny Beeler the fire started on the third floor in the back of the building. He says a person was involved in starting the fire. The investigation is ongoing as surveillance video is reviewed. Beeler says he has responded to calls at the warehouse over the years.

"Every time we knew about someone being in here the service department responded and repaired that or beefed up that security," said Beeler.

Some residents told 6 News they've contacted police in the past reporting vagrants entering McClung warehouse and that they believe the city could have done more to keep people out to of the building. Director of Redevelopment Bob Whetsel disagrees.

"We feel very comfortable that we did all we could do to secure these buildings which are very hard to secure," said Whetsel.

Razor wire and a metal door were installed in November. Dirt and concrete was also placed in front of doors to serve as a barricade. Beeler says only round the clock guards could keep people out.

"No matter what is done somebody is going to defeat that," said Beeler.

The city plans to take bids to stabilize the building by the summer. The mayor hopes to sale the property private developers by the end of the year.

"This is heart breaking to lose this one building. Hopefully we'll keep the other one but if not we'll do what we need to do to move ahead," said Mayor Rogero.

The fire marshal's investigation will not be complete until the report from the structural engineer is complete. The fire marshal says while they have no evidence of anyone in the building during the fire, if the area is deemed safe, they may use cadaver dogs to check the site just to make sure no one was inside.

The city paid $1.4 million last November and obtained the title to the McClung Warehouse. The fire in 2007 cost the city nearly a million dollars. The Knoxville fire chief is still working to figure up the cost of battling this weekend's blaze.

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