KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The manager and employees of a South Knoxville transmission shop started cleaning up the ruble Tuesday morning after a fire ripped through the business.
A neighbor who lives down the street from Dave’s Wholesale Transmissions described what she saw. “There was fire coming out everywhere, every window, every door and still blowing up in the back,” said Sherrie Waggoner.
“I was so terrified and scared because it was just, I mean, it looked like a nuclear bomb had went off over here.”
Waggoner said three of the employees, including her boyfriend, lived at the business in addition to working there. “The three that have no home or job now and it was just a terrible, terrible disaster,” she said.
The manager of the shop said Tuesday was all about taking things one step at a time, starting with trying to salvage what’s left.
“Unfortunately, out of $50,000 worth of tools, I’d say $10,000 of it was salvageable,” said Tony Ogle. “That’s not including Dave’s tools, my other guys’ tools, the lifts, welders, everything.”
Ogle is also going the extra mile, making sure his employees can still make a living while they rebuild. “I found them jobs if they want to go take it,” Ogle began. “If not, they are more than welcome to come to my house where I’ll be taking the cars where I’ll try to fix them.”
There’s also the insurance for the customers’ cars lost while in their care. “We’ve already got the insurance rolling, we’re going to get everything took care of as fast as possible.”
Tony and his crew understand this was just day one in their recovery. They know there’s a long road ahead. So, for now, they’re thankful for what they do have.
“Keep us in your thoughts and prayers and hopefully we can get this turned back around pretty quick and get the doors opened back up,” said Ogle.
While crews worked to clear some of the debris, the owner was released from the hospital and is at home recovering. Dave Johnson has first and second-degree burns to his arms, neck, and face.
Investigators with the Knoxville Fire Department determined the fire started near a heating device. Firefighters described it as being similar to a water heater, using a gas burner to create heat. Investigators also said employees had tried to put the fire out themselves before calling 911. They believe the fire was an accident.