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Roe wants to be 'informed' on Kingsport blast

Robert Houk • Jan 5, 2019 at 12:00 AM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, said he intends to learn more about a fire and explosion at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Kingsport on Thursday.

The 1st District congressman told reporters on a Friday morning conference call that HAAP officials had not provided him with details about the incident, which involved a fire that destroyed a building, followed by a subsequent controlled burn of the structure that set off an explosion nearly four hours later.

“I should have been informed on that,” Roe said. “I can’t comment on something I wasn’t informed of.”

Roe said he planned to call HAAP himself and learn more about the cause of the fire and the aftermath of the explosion.

Justine Barati, the Director of Public and Congressional Affairs for Joint Munitions Command, told the Kingsport Times News on Thursday that no workers were in the building at the time of either incident. Barati said one employee who was in proximity to the initial fire was transported to Holston Valley Medical Center for observation.

Hours after Roe spoke to area reporters, his press secretary, Whitney Alexander, issued the following statement:

“Congressman Phil Roe’s staff was made aware yesterday morning of the explosion that occurred at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant. From the information given to the office from Holston Army Ammunition Plant, the incident was controlled, no workers were in the building at the time of the explosion and one worker was sent to the emergency room for observation.

“Based on this information, the incident appeared to be under control without significant injuries or damage, no constituents called to express concern about the incident and due to the hectic first-day congressional schedule, the congressman had not yet been briefed on details of the incident. Following the media call today, Holston followed up with information indicating the fire had been fully extinguished and the employee sent to the hospital for observation is scheduled to be released today.

“The congressman has spoken with Holston officials and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure there is no additional concern to the community.”

Barati told the Times News she was not able to identify the HAAP building where the fire took place, but said the 2,400-square-foot structure was near the rear of the installation.

Build The Wall

On other issues Friday, Roe said he believes there “is a way around the impasse” that has resulted in a partial shutdown of the federal government, but it might take a change of the rules in the U.S. Senate to “end this gridlock.”

The congressman said the shutdown continues as a result of policymakers putting “themselves into corners.”

Roe said he and his GOP colleagues stand behind President Trump and his push for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the Mexican border. He said U.S. Border Patrol agents have told him a concrete wall is necessary to secure the area.

“It baffles my brain as to why anyone would not want to protect our Southern border,” Roe said.

Future Budget Woes

With Democrats now in control of the U.S. House, Roe said he was concerned with how defense spending will be adressed in future federal budgets. The congressman said he expects Democrats to call for “drastic cuts” to military spending.

He said his colleagues from across the aisle have eliminated funding for key projects that have resulted in one of the “smallest air forces” in this nation’s history.

“This is not the time to be doing that,” Roe said.

He told reporters that Trump and Republicans in Congress were “just getting the military back on its feet.”

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