Truck backfire sparks Carters Valley barn fire

Jeff Bobo • May 9, 2007 at 1:33 AM

A firefighter with the Mount Carmel Volunteer Fire Department works to control a barn fire Tuesday on Okolona Road. Erica Yoon photo.

Four area fire departments responded to a massive barn fire north of Church Hill Tuesday morning, but the structure - which had been filled with hay - was beyond saving by the time firefighters arrived.

Carters Valley Volunteer Fire Department spokesman Mike Yates said the fire started while property owner Lynn Wolfe was working on a truck near the barn located at 271 Okolona Road when the carburetor backfired, spitting flames into the air.

"They said it was plumb full of hay, and the hay caught fire," Yates said. "Once that hay got lit there was no stopping it. It went up quick. I was on the other side of Church Hill when the call came in and I could see the smoke plume."

Wolfe and his sons made it out of the barn safely and assisted firefighters at the scene, Yates added. But Yates said by the time the trucks arrived the only feasible strategy was to go into defensive mode and protect the equipment and property around the burning barn.

Fire departments which assisted at the scene included Mount Carmel, Church Hill and Goshen Valley.

One Mount Carmel volunteer, Don Sherfey, was overcome by the heat and had to be transported to Holston Valley Medical Center. Mount Carmel fire chief Chris Jones said Sherfey was treated and released and was recovered by early evening.

Yates said that daytime fires are especially difficult at times because most volunteers are at their job and couldn't respond. He said there were 16 people on the scene from the four departments that responded.

"It's a problem when you have these daytime fires and you get low turnout, and we saw today what can happen," Yates said. "The individuals who did respond had more work and stress ... on them, and we had a man overcome by heat. I think this demonstrates why we need more volunteers, especially ... during the daytime.

"... A better turnout would have made it easier on us, But we couldn't have saved that barn. It was pretty much on the ground when we got there."

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