Two years after Knox mulch fire, lawmakers look at changes

Two years after Knoxville mulch fire, lawmakers look at making changes

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On the afternoon of April 15, 2012 a fire broke out at Shamrock Organic on Ailor Avenue. With firefighters working around the clock, it took more than a week to put out. On the afternoon of April 15, 2012 a fire broke out at Shamrock Organic on Ailor Avenue. With firefighters working around the clock, it took more than a week to put out.
After the smoke cleared, a comprehensive review was ordered by the mayor and they discovered there were shortcomings by the company and the city. After the smoke cleared, a comprehensive review was ordered by the mayor and they discovered there were shortcomings by the company and the city.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) –  It's been nearly two years since a massive mulch fire blanketed  downtown Knoxville with smoke, shut down businesses and cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now two years later, state lawmakers are behind an effort that would allow cities to recoup money spent battling fires like this one.


2012 Mulch Fire Coverage


On the afternoon of April 15, 2012 a fire broke out at Shamrock Organic on Ailor Avenue. With firefighters working around the clock, it took more than a week to put out.

After the smoke cleared, a comprehensive review was ordered by the mayor and they discovered there were shortcomings by the company and the city.

Rep. Roger Kane and Sen. Randy McNally sponsored a bill that looks to see if municipalities could recoup damages from fires caused by reckless landowners. It passed the House and the Senate and now awaits the governor's signature.

Rep. Kane says the mulch fire was the reason behind the bill.

The 2012 fire took almost two weeks to put out, as crews battled flames and after effects of the massive mulch fire costing the city $200,000.

"Ten days of fire department, government officials, all sorts of people responding to take care of the damages, and there was almost no compensation so the tax payer lost in that situation," said Rep. Kane.

The bill asks for a study to see if fires caused by negligent land owners should mean local governments can recoup some of those costs.

In the case of the mulch fire, the city of Knoxville never used the word "negligence" in their review.

"We knew the hybrid piles were an issue, not having a fire safety plan in place, the overburdening because of the storm, all of those contributed to a situation that we didn't want to have happen," explained Knoxville Public Works director David Brace.

Knoxville Fire Department spokesperson D.J. Corcoran says Shamrock Organic did pay for the cost of their services.

"If you own a business or home in the city of Knoxville and our services are required, we come put your fire out or we answer your medical needs, you're covered. There's no charge, you've already paid that, you're tax dollars take care of that," said Corcoran.

Rep. Kane says it makes sense to take a look at other options.

"Just get all the people together, hashing out over the summer time and then look at something in the next session about how do we address it, there may be no solution, but we're going to give it a try and see if there's a better way to make sure the tax dollars are spent correctly," he explained.

From an operations stand point, the city says it would tricky.

"Unless there is a violation of law, willful intent, gross negligence, the city doesn't try to recoup and determine, we should charge this person for a fire or we shouldn't charge this person," said Brace.

Since the fire Shamrock has been in compliance with all of the new regulations. They have installed thermal cameras and have 24 hour surveillance on the property to help ensure nothing like this happens again.

We reached out to the owner, but he did not want to comment on the bill or the anniversary.

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