Update: Downtown Kingsport fire contained, still smoldering

Rain Smith • Updated May 18, 2017 at 8:48 PM

KINGSPORT — A large blaze at “Supermarket Row” on Sullivan Street billowed a low blanket of smoke across much of downtown on Thursday, forcing the closure of roads and warnings to the community about health dangers.

Emergency responders scrambled to the scene at 3:20 p.m. According to Kingsport Fire Department Public Education Officer Barry Brickey, firefighters found smoke coming from the right front corner of the empty former grocery store.

Firefighters entered to attempt an interior attack, but they had to pull back due to a collapsing ceiling. Brickey says efforts then turned defensive to protect structures on the back side of the building.

Six engines, two ladder trucks and more than two dozen firefighters fought the blaze, which was aided by gusts of wind. Personnel donned oxygen masks, and extra air tanks had to be brought to the scene. At alternating intervals, the building, parking lot and Sullivan Street were totally blacked out by the billowing, shifting smoke.

Some four hours after firefighters originally responded, the fire was under control, with a less dense smoke still hanging over area. The building, which most recently housed Hometown IGA but closed a few years ago, was gutted. Brickey said Thursday’s efforts were the largest response by the KFD since October of 2015, when the former Mason-Dixon trucking terminal off East Stone Drive burned down.

There were no injuries reported. The KFD expected to remain overnight to water down hot spots. As of late Thursday, Brickey said authorities hadn’t yet be determined if electricity had been turned off at the site. The fire marshall will investigate for a possible cause once the charred building cools. There is no timetable for the completion of that probe.

The extensive fire and its potential effects prompted a reverse 911 call from Kingsport Central Dispatch. It urged residents to close all doors, windows and shut off central air systems “if you can’t temporarily evacuate the area.”

Due to various grocery stores it has housed since 1950, the scene of the fire is referred to as “Supermarket Row.” In 2012, the Kingsport Economic Development Board purchased the property and adjoining parcels for $1.77 million.

In July of last year, the KEDB reached an agreement with Georgia-based Crossgate Partners LLC, planning to develop “upscale” lofts at the site. The estimated price tag of the project is $31 million. Demolition of buildings and new construction has not yet begun.

Related Photo Gallery: Smoke pours from Supermarket Row

Update: 5:15 p.m.

Kingsport has issued a reverse 9-1-1 call urging local residents to take precautions due to the heavy smoke from the structure fire in Downtown Kingsport. Click Here for a photo gallery from the scene.


9-1-1 says that due to the structure fire at the old IGA building at 443 W. Sullivan Street, the Kingsport Fire Department is asking (residents) to close all doors and windows. “Due to heavy smoke in the area, shut off the HVAC as well if you can't temporarily evacuate the area for your own safety,” the call states.

Continue to check back with TimesNews.net for details as they become available.

Update: 4:50 p.m.

A low blanket of smoke is currently lying over much downtown Kingsport as firefighters try to extinguish an extensive blaze at "Supermarket Row" on Sullivan Street.

Emergency responders scrambled to the scene at 3:20 p.m., finding smoke coming from the right front corner of the empty, former grocery store. According to Kingsport Fire Department Public Education Officer Barry Brickey, firefighters attempted to make an interior attack. They soon had to pull back due to a collapsing ceiling. Aided by winds, the fire then spread through the building.

As of 4:50 p.m., six engines and dozens of firefighters were on scene, most donning masks due to the extensive smoke. Additional air bottles had to be transported to the scene to assist in their continuing efforts to extinguish the blaze.

As of 5 p.m., the Kingsport Police Department issued a traffic advisory “in effect for the Downtown Kingsport area due to an extensive structure fire on Supermarket Row, located in the 400 block of West Sullivan Street.”

“All east/west traffic should utilize either Center Street or Stone Drive and avoid Sullivan Street altogether. Motorists should also completely avoid Clinchfield Street and Press Street,” the advisory states.

Check back with TimesNews.net for details and a photo gallery as they become available.

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The Kingsport Fire Department is on the scene of a structure fire at the old “supermarket row” in Downtown Kingsport.

Crews are battling the fire that broke out Thursday afternoon in the former IGA grocery store building located at 443 West Sullivan Street in Kingsport.

Check back at TimesNews.Net for more details as they become available.

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