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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Fire destroys century-old barn in Elizabethton

December 24th, 2013 1:08 pm by John Thompson

Fire destroys century-old barn in Elizabethton

Firefighters battle flames at what remains of a barn on Lincoln Drive in Elizabethton. (Contributed by Art Smithdeal)

ELIZABETHTON — A fast burning fire destroyed a 100-year-old barn along the Watauga River east of Elizabethton on Christmas Eve.

No one was injured in the fire, but all items stored in the barn, as well as the barn itself, were reduced to ashes in the flames which were fanned by a persistent westerly breeze. The Stoney Creek, Watauga and Hampton-Valley Forge volunteer fire departments responded to the fire. The firefighters remained on the scene for quite a while because the winds kept fanning the ashes and sending clouds of smoke drifting across the river.

The barn was on the Mike Miller residence at the dead end of Lincoln Drive, a road which follows the south shore of the river. The family was at home at the time the fire broke out, but did not realize the barn was on fire until a passerby warned them.

The fire was discovered by Art Smithdeal, a captain with the Elizabethton Police Department. Smithdeal was duck hunting along the river when he saw the fire.

“It was just a small fire when I saw it. The fire was outside of the barn, in front of it,” Smithdeal said. He called in the fire to 911 at 11:15 a.m. 

The barn was close to the Miller home, but the prevailing wind kept the fire away from the house. Smithdeal went to the front door to warn the family, but at first he was not able to get anyone to answer his knock. He said he learned Mr. Miller was taking a shower and Mrs. Miller was running the vacuum cleaner. Finally, he passed the warning to the family.

Smithdeal was able to remove some propane tanks and a lawn mower from the burning barn, but the flames grew quickly and he was not able to get anything else out. He said he saw some chicken running around outside of the building, which he estimated had dimensions of about 30 feet by 50 feet.

Capt. Jason Shaw of the Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department said the cause of the fire was not immediately known. He said there was electricity to the building. The circuit breaker had been tripped. He said the family heard dogs barking earlier.

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