logo


KFD says juveniles admitted setting Supermarket Row fire

Rain Smith • May 19, 2017 at 9:50 AM

KINGSPORT — Thursday’s large fire and blanket of smoke over downtown were triggered by a pair of juvenile arsonists, according to the Kingsport Fire Department, with charges pending after confessions from the suspects.

During a Friday morning press conference, KFD Public Education Officer Barry Brickey said witnesses reported seeing the duo at the scene, 443 Sullivan St. With the help of the Kingsport Police Department, the boys were located Thursday evening and interviewed. KPD detectives are continuing to investigate the case.

Firefighters worked the blaze until approximately 2 a.m. Friday, nearly 12 hours after first responding. During the long battle with the fire, smoke often obscured the building and was heavy throughout the area. Brickey said the fire department also received reports of smoke north to Bloomingdale and northeast along Stone Drive to Indian Path Medical Center.

An initial attempt to make an interior attack was quickly abandoned due to the collapsing ceiling. Firefighters’ efforts then turned defensive — and successfully protected surrounding structures — but flames were fanned by shifting winds. Brickey added that the structure, which is more than 60 years old, was not equipped with a sprinkler system.

Authorities do not yet know where the fire was ignited inside the building, or what accelerant might have been used. Brickey said he was unaware of any prior arson incidents involving the suspects.

“Typically anytime you have juveniles who set fires ... they will have a history of playing with fire, whether it’s lighters or matches lying around the home, burning small objects and things like that. And usually as they get older, it gets larger. Thankfully, there were no injuries, no deaths.”

Due to the continuing investigation and the juvenile status of the suspects, Kingsport police are declining to release any additional information at this time.

Brickey said more than 1.5 million gallons of water was used to douse the fire, and estimates of taxpayer dollars used are still being calculated. The building, which most recently housed Hometown IGA but closed a few years ago, was gutted. In the wake of the incident, the fire marshal’s office is reminding building owners to secure vacant structures.

Several agencies worked the scene alongside the KFD: the KPD, Kingsport Public Works and Transportation, Kingsport Life Saving Crew, Sullivan County EMS and the American Red Cross.

Businesses including Food City, Burger King, Little Caesars and Subway pitched in with food and water for emergency personnel.

__________

Previous story:

KINGSPORT — Thursday's large fire and blanket of smoke over downtown was triggered by a pair of juvenile arsonists, according to the Kingsport Fire Department, with charges pending after a confession from one of the suspects.

During a Friday morning press conference, KFD Public Information Officer Barry Brickey said witnesses reported seeing the duo at the scene, 443 Sullivan St. With the help of the Kingsport Police Department, they were located Thursday evening and interviewed. KPD detectives are continuing to investigate the case with charges pending.

Firefighters worked the scene until approximately 2 a.m. Friday, nearly 12 hours after first responding. Upon arrival they found smoke coming from the right front corner of the empty, former grocery store.

Entry was made to attempt an interior attack, but firefighters had to pull back due to a collapsing ceiling. Brickey says efforts quickly turned defensive to protect structures on the backside of the building.

Five engines, two ladder trucks and more than two dozen firefighters fought the blaze, which was aided by gusts of wind. Brickey says nearly 2 million gallons of water was used to douse the fire, with estimates on tax payers dollars still being calculated.

The building, which most recently housed Hometown IGA, but closed a few years ago, was gutted. 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 yet began.

"We were going to raze the building anyway," said Bill Dudney, KEDB Board Chairman. 

Check back soon with TimesNews.net for more information. Click here for a photo gallery from the scene on Thursday. 

RELATED: Downtown Kingsport fire contained, still smoldering

 

Recommended for You