State officials: Campbell County fireworks store destroyed by fi

State officials: Campbell County fireworks store destroyed by fire was not licensed

Updated:
State bomb and arson investigators at the fire scene Monday. State bomb and arson investigators at the fire scene Monday.
By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

CARYVILLE (WATE) - Tennessee Bomb and Arson investigators say a Campbell County fireworks store that was destroyed in a huge fire Sunday was not licensed.

The fire happened just after 4:00 Sunday afternoon at the Fireworks Superstore just off I-75 in Caryville. At one point the flames were so intense both north and southbound lanes of the interstate had to be shut down.

Previous story: TN Bomb and Arson team investigates fireworks stand fire

Officials say they have still not determined a cause and the owners have been cooperative. However, 6 News obtained documents showing the business, Stowers Super Store, received a cease and desist letter for an expired permit in March.

In part the letter reads, “Since your renewal was not received in the Permits and Licenses office prior to the expiration date, your permit is expired. Therefore you must Cease and Desist any sale of Fireworks.”

Read the cease and desist order [PDF]

“It came to our attention that they had not renewed their license for 2014 and therefor they were in contempt,” said Megan Buell, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

The Stowers have been in the fireworks business since the 1940s, but opened the Campbell County location in 2008. That year was the last time the store was inspected. The inspection report shows they passed. State officials say any firework operation is subject to inspections at any time but they do not happen on an annual basis. Stores do have to renew their permit each year.

Read the 2008 inspection report [PDF]

We stopped by the Stowers’ second location in Luttrell. That store is in compliance with state law and currently up to date on its permits. The owner, Angela Stowers, was unavailable for an on camera interview, but said she mailed the new permit application in the spring.

Buell says the owner did reapply in May, but before they would be allowed to sell fireworks again, they would have to undergo another inspection.

“Their application is in process but at this point they were still acting out of contempt by not being a licensed vendor,” Buell said.

Tyson Stowers, the son of the owner, said sometimes “things just slip.” In a conversation over the phone, Stowers said this has been a very trying ordeal for his family as they’ve lost more than half of their livelihood. They are working with the insurance company with the hopes of rebuilding.

Buell says the investigation is ongoing and could take months. She says the permit situation would not have had any effect on the fire that happened Sunday.

“Its an unfortunate circumstance that took place for this store and for this store owner and for the area, so it makes difference whether or not they were in compliance or not in compliance in terms of this fire situation,” Buell.

We asked if there is any recourse for operating a fireworks business without a license. We're told if the owners had been caught, the state could have seized their inventory. Obviously when they realized the situation Sunday, that inventory was lost in the fire.

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