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Fire damages 1,800 tombstones at Chattanooga National Cemetery, including those of Civil War dead

January 22nd, 2014 7:55 am by Tyler Jett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Fire damages 1,800 tombstones at Chattanooga National Cemetery, including those of Civil War dead

Robert Hall, right, and Gustavo Martinez trim around headstones Tuesday at Chattanooga National Cemetery after a grass fire burned around 5 acres, damaging many headstones. Photo by Angela Lewis .

CHATTANOOGA — A grass fire damaged about 1,800 tombstones, including those of a number of Civil War dead, after flames spread across five acres of Chattanooga National Cemetery on Sunday afternoon.

Deborah Kendrick, the cemetery’s director, said the fire erupted at 1200 Bailey Ave. around 1:30 p.m., charring a small portion of the cemetery’s 43,000-plus grave markers. In most cases, Kendrick said, the damage is not too severe — nothing that can’t be fixed with a pressure washer.

However, the fire burned at least three tombstones so badly that cemetery officials will have to replace them.

The national cemetery is reserved for military veterans who have received honorable discharges. A member of the National Guard or the U.S. Army Reserve can also be buried there, assuming that person is eligible for retirement benefits. Some family members are also eligible.

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