‘Never in my life seen anything spread so fast’ | Rural Metro Fire responds to West Knox fire

The fire began in Building J of Walker Springs Apartments.
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 4:34 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 17, 2022 at 11:02 AM EDT
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West Knox Apartment Building Fire

28 people were displaced in a West Knox apartment building fire, and officials now turning to the investigation. https://bit.ly/3A6IdOy

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, August 17, 2022

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Rural Metro Fire crews responded to an apartment fire in West Knox County Tuesday afternoon, officials said.

The fire broke out in Building J at Walker Springs Apartments at around 4:00 p.m., Rural Metro Fire Spokesperson Jeff Bagwell told WVLT news. Upon arrival, crews found heavy smoke and fire coming from a unit in the building. Neighbors said the fire jumped from building J to building K in a matter of minutes.

“I have just never in my life seen anything spread so fast,” Marla Higginbotham said.

Officials confirmed the building was a total loss but said the fire had been contained to just one of the apartment’s 20 buildings. Building K suffered exposure damage. Barrett Payne lives across from building J and said he’s willing to help if need be.

“I’ve got extra room in my apartment if someone needs to stay overnight. Just come see me,” Payne said.

Bagwell also said that the Knox County Sheriff’s Office did a “great job” evacuating the adjacent building and ensuring all occupants who lived in the apartment building were accounted for and okay. The status of pets remains unknown at this time.

“It makes us feel real good that nobody was injured, and we’re not pulling bodies out of this building,” Bagwell said.

All in all, Bagwell said that eight units were destroyed in the fire, displacing 28 people.

At this time, investigators are unsure what caused the fire, but Bagwell said KCSO investigators responded to the scene. Those investigators will attempt to pinpoint the fire’s origin through interviewing those that were home at the time, Bagwell said.

However, officials said the absence of sprinklers in the building was a factor that affected the fast spread of the fire. Bagwell said the building was built before building codes required it.

In total, 12 fire units with over 40 firefighters, two AMR ambulances and multiple KCSO units responded to the scene. Rural Metro also thanked Knoxville fire for stopping to assist in the battle.

The American Red Cross is responding to assist the displaced residents. Volunteer Lloyd Pitney said they will provide people displaced with toiletries and money to potentially stay in a motel.

“We also try to get the apartment complex to see if they have any extra units available,” Pitney said.

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