By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
Firefighters with one volunteer department in Knox and Laurel counties were kept busy over the weekend — the result of three structure fires that spanned a three-day period, beginning late Saturday and ending Monday morning.
The most recent blazes totally destroyed a house and garage in the 1100 block of Oak Ridge Church Road, at the intersection of Oak Ridge Church and Campground Roads in Laurel County, near the Laurel-Knox county line. There, a pre-fab house with a two car garage in the back first caught fire late Sunday night, also destroying the residence. Hours later, the fire scene started over, or “rekindled” Monday morning, destroying the garage.
Late last Saturday night, a small-family house at the corner of KY 1232 and El Toro Lane in the Gray community caught fire, damaging the entire inside of the home. The same house had been damaged in a fire about a month ago, when the West Knox Volunteer Fire Department was called out to extinguish a fire that gutted the home’s kitchen and made the house unlivable, according to West Knox VFD Chief Darryl Baker.
West Knox fire crews were at the scene of all three fires this weekend, getting an assist Saturday night from a tanker truck from the nearby Lily Volunteer Fire Department.
No one was inside the homes at the time of the fires, and no firefighters were injured in any of the blazes.
Sunday night’s fire at Oak Ridge Church Road began at 10:04 p.m. West Knox crews were paged out first by Knox County 9-1-1, then got a second page from Laurel County 9-1-1 when the firefighters got to the scene.
Baker said in an interview Monday night the owner of the house was Ella McNew. The person living in the house, Willard “Doug” McNew, was not there at the time of the fire. Neighbors told first responders that he had been arrested the night before by the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department.
Baker also noted when his crews got to the scene of the fire, the pre-fab house was engulfed in flames. Firefighters were able to save the two-car garage, before crews left the scene of the fire at 1 a.m. Monday.
A total of 16 firefighters and four pieces of fire apparatus were used during the blaze — West Knox providing 15 men, two engines and a tanker, with help from a tanker truck and one man from the Lily VFD.
A little after eight-and-a-half hours later, the garage part of the burned out home caught fire, due to flames from the house coming back to burn the garage. West Knox crews went to the scene at 9:38 a.m., extinguishing the blaze, and leaving the scene around 11 a.m Monday.
“Most likely, there was something down there we didn’t get to, and caused the fire to rekindle,” Baker said about the Monday morning fire which totally destroyed the two-car garage.
He added the cause of the fires were undetermined at this time, and that the owner’s insurance company will investigate.
Last Saturday night’s fire on El Toro Lane in Gray began at 11:40 p.m. The entire inside of the house was involved in flames, while Baker stated the outside of the structure was still standing.
The West Knox chief added the owner of the house was Johnny Brooks of Gray.
“It looked like a small-family house that was built in the 60’s or 70’s. We did talk to the owner, and he said he was out of the house because he was working third shift. His family was out of the house as well. Nobody was living there at the time of the fire,” he said.
According to Baker, neighbors at the scene saw someone come to the house an hour before the fire, but didn’t know who the person was.
A total of 12 firefighters and three trucks (two pumpers and a tanker) were used by the WKVFD to put out the Saturday night blaze. First responders left the scene at 2:13 a.m. Sunday.
The house was declared a total loss. The fire came about a month after West Knox crews were called to the scene to put out a fire that engulfed the kitchen, making the home unsuitable to live in.