Johnson City warehouse fire set, investigation concludes

Becky Campbell • May 19, 2012 at 8:30 AM

The fire that destroyed a large warehouse on West Main Street Sunday was a set fire, according to Johnson City Assistant Fire Chief Mark Finucane.

“The fire at the warehouse is termed by the state fire marshal’s office as a set fire,” Finucane said late Friday.

The large building, located at 1010 W. Main St., once housed one of the city’s tobacco warehouses. It had fallen into disrepair in recent years.

Officials have not ruled if the fire was intentionally set or accidentally set.

“There were several variables that went into that” ruling, Finucane said.

Some of those variables include the building being unattended and unsecured, having damage from last year’s tornado, being a location frequented by homeless people and having no electricity.

“The investigation is ongoing. We are continuing to look for people connected to this incident to further determine the origin of the fire,” Finucane said.

The state fire marshal’s office is heading the investigation with assistance from the Johnson City fire and police departments.

Firefighters responded to the blaze around 12:15 p.m. Sunday to find the 100,000-square-foot building about 50 percent involved in the fire. The on-duty commander immediately recognized the magnitude of the fire and called for additional manpower.

It took several hours to get the fire under control and several more to fully extinguish it.

The fire became a public spectacle with residents from all over the city trying to get a look at what was on fire.

The fire sent a large column of thick, black smoke across the city as well as ash and debris.

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