BY KEN LITTLE
Wind-whipped flames tore through an outbuilding Thursday afternoon in back of a house at 617 North Hill St.
Quick work by Greeneville firefighters, who were also battling frigid weather, likely saved the nearby home from destruction.
The fire was spotted about 5 p.m. Thursday by Greeneville police Officer Chris Metcalf, who was on patrol and saw smoke coming from the outbuilding, located between North Main Street and North Irish Street.
"I was right down the road and saw smoke, and I thought it was fog. But it was smoke, and I called the fire department," Metcalf said at the scene.
At first, only smoke was seen coming from the workshed, which contained tools, a motorcycle and a three-wheel ATV.
"(The fire) hadn't gotten out of the building yet," Metcalf said.
But high winds blowing through Greeneville fanned the fire until flames broke through to the outside.
"Within a couple of minutes, flames were shooting out the side window," Metcalf said.
The outbuilding contained a propane heater, which is being looked at by investigators as the possible cause of the fire.
"They were using a propane heater inside to heat the building," Greeneville Fire Marshal Alan Shipley said.
An electrical cord was also run into the building from the house to provide lighting.
"When firefighters arrived, flames were already coming out of the shed and actually getting underneath the porch of the house," Shipley said.
"The homeowners, when they discovered the fire, actually got a water hose trying to keep the fire out of the house."
The homeowners are Sam and Debbie Jones. Sam and his son, Dylan, were preparing to paint some break calipers in the workshop.
"We were getting the building ready and turned the heater on to get warm," Dylan Jones said as he watched firefighters spray water into the smouldering shed.
Jones and his mother were inside the house when they heard "a loud pop" come from the outbuilding.
"I met my dad, and we got a fire extinguisher and a water hose and we attempted to put it out," Jones said.
Once the fire took hold, though, "There was nothing we could do about it," Dylan Jones said.
When firefighters arrived, the wind was blowing the fire in the direction of the adjacent house, about 10 feet away.
"They made a pretty quick knockdown" of the fire, Shipley said.
No injuries were reported.
Firefighters remained at the scene for several hours after the fire, hosing down hot spots in the attic area of the outbuilding.
The fire cause and a damage estimate were not available this morning. An investigation continues.
With bone-chilling temperatures forecast over the next week, firefighters know they have their work cut out for them in the event of a similar call.
As temperatures dropped below freezing Thursday night, it was more difficult to get air bottles for firefighters changed out.
It's also harder to handle hose lines and complete other firefighting functions.
"It makes conditions challenging," Shipley said.