Home A 'Total Loss'
Despite Efforts Of
Several VFDs At
Scene For Hours
BY BILL JONES
A 4,500-square-foot brick residence on River Bluff Circle off Jones Bridge Road was gutted by a fire of undetermined origin on Saturday evening.
Regie Jones, chief of the DeBusk Volunteer Fire Department, said the house, which was owned by Robert Ford, was a "total loss."
Ford is believed to reside in Georgia, but checks on the house occasionally, according to a report by Deputy Sheriff Toby Price.
The Sheriff's Department's report also indicated that Greeneville Fire Marshal Alan Shipley had seen "white smoke" coming from the chimney of the house on Saturday afternoon shortly before the fire was reported.
Initially, Chief Jones said, firefighters feared home-owner Ford was inside the house, but were later told he was believed to be out of state at the time the fire broke out.
Jones, who also is a member of the Sunnyside Volunteer Fire Department, said he responded with the Sunnyside and Camp Creek VFDs when they were dispatched to the fire about 5 p.m. Saturday.
River Bluff Circle is just south of the Nolichucky River Bridge, according to Chief Jones, who said the fire was reported by a passing Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services ambulance crew who noticed heavy smoke coming from the house as they drove along Jones Bridge Road.
When the first firefighters reached the scene, Jones said, they found flames coming from the basement windows of the house.
Jones said firefighters believe the fire began in the basement of the house.
Chief Jones said the Sunnyside and Camp Creek VFDs called for additional manpower to help battle the blaze, which generated tremendous clouds of dense, black smoke.
Units from the Tusculum, South Greene and Limestone volunteer fire departments responded, he said. "In all, we had about 50 firefighters on the scene," Jones said. "And we hauled more than 50,000 gallons of water to the scene."
Other firefighters estimated the total water used to extinguish the blaze at about 70,000 gallons.
Initially, Jones said, firefighters attempted to make an "interior attack" on the fire by entering the house through its attached garage, but were driven back by intense heat.
Subsequent efforts to enter the house through its front door were thwarted by a combination of furniture being stacked against the inside of the door and by the intense heat.
Other efforts to enter the burning house through another door and a window also were beaten back by intense heat and dense smoke, according to Jones.
He noted that smoke from the fire was so thick that firefighters outside the burning structure had to wear self-contained breathing apparatus to keep from being overcome.
"The Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad refilled about 60 air tanks (for firefighters' self-contained breathing apparatus) on the scene," Jones said.
He said firefighters remained on the scene until after 11 p.m. Saturday.
Jones said the Sunnyside VFD sent 14 members to the fire scene along with two trucks while the Camp Creek VFD responded with 12 firefighters and three trucks.
The Tusculum VFD sent 10 firefighters and three trucks to battle the blaze, while the South Greene VFD sent four firefighters and two trucks to the fire.
The Limestone VFD sent two firefighters and one truck to help battle the blaze, Jones said.
Also responding to the fire were: a Greeneville Light & Power System crew, Greene County sheriff's deputies, units of the Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad, a Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services (EMS) ambulance and a disaster services unit from the Greene County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Greene County Sheriff's Department.