Knoxville firefighters remember McClung Warehouse fires

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – It’s an image many of us will never forget. Ten years ago, the way people see Knoxville from Interstate 40 would forever be changed.

The warehouses used by the McClung Company are now vacant and rundown. Nevertheless, they were a staple of Knoxville’s landscapes for over 100 years, until ten years ago.  mcclung fire

“I think about it everyday. It comes to me everyday. I know it does for my brothers that were there too,” said Knoxville firefighter Jeff Kindrick.

The two-alarm call going out just after 1 a.m. as flames consumed the warehouses, growing in intensity in just a matter of minutes.

A reality that hit too close to home for Kindrick and some of his fellow firefighters as at one point they found themselves right in the middle of the chaos.

“The fire we thought was under control. A fire broke out in the back corner of the floor we were on. The fire took off at a rate exponential to anything anybody had ever seen and within a few minutes. Not even a few minutes, the whole floor was on fire,” said Kindrick.

mcclung fireNow while that was happening, across the way, KFD’s Darrell Whitaker was on the air live with WATE 6 On Your Side at the time when he heard what was happening.

“I had my radio in my pocket and all of a sudden I hear this condition,” said Whitaker. “I knew something was going on. I hear the stress in their voice and hear ‘I can’t open the door. I can’t open the door.”

Fortunately, no lives were lost. The trapped firefighters, using their hoses to slide down several stories, all suffering various injuries in the process.

“In retrospect, I think the fact that nobody got killed is a testament to the training that this department goes through and it’s a testament to the kind of people we this in this department.”

Crews were battling flames for close to seven hours that morning. The winds, not cooperating, as crews dealt with fires along nearby railroad tracks and grassy areas.

“We were putting a lot of water on that fire,” said Whitaker. “I know the people in Sterchi lofts probably couldn’t flush their toilets because we were using all the water from the mains.”

By the end of the day, five firefighters were injured and one ladder truck was destroyed.

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