Official: Fire at vacant Rocky Top building was "probably arson"

Rocky Top Police confirmed a vacant hospital on Main Street caught fire early Wednesday morning.

Police said the building was unoccupied, and the fire started around 5:30 a.m.

The address is 901 South Main Street in Rocky Top.

According to the city manager, Michael Foster, the building is about 95,000 sq. feet. "There was no one in the building, and so they started trying to fight the fire best they could without putting any firemen in danger," he said.

While not confirmed, he does believe the fire was most likely intentional.

Foster said that, "We do think it was probably arson, and it will be investigated. The state fire marshal will be out this week for the investigation."

According to Foster, the mayor of Rocky Top, Mike Lovely, was actually the first to see the fire this morning.

Just the day before the fire, Foster said he had developers surveying the property of what was once a hospital. "I had some developers looking and doing something with it, thinking they could get it for a good price."

He's no longer sure that the developers will be interested, however. "I don't know if they'll still be interested in the property. There is still one building that's in good shape, but it's not the one they wanted."

He said the building has been vacant for at least three years, since he has been with the city.

"It was a full-fledged hospital. I know a couple of my employees were actually born in the hospital, but in the late 80s, early 90s. I don't know exactly when it closed."

Foster told WVLT News the fire started in the front of the building. The building did not have any electricity.