Large industrial fire breaks out in Monroe County

VONORE (WATE) – Multiple fire departments responded to a large industrial fire in Vonore Saturday night, leaving Protech Metal Finishing a total loss.

Aaron Hanley, Vonore Fire Chief, said his crews arrived on scene at 10:58, just five minutes after the initial call came in. He also said between 25 and 30 crews tried to put out the fire. No one was inside at the time of the fire and no injuries have been reported.

“We came in and it was just heavy smoke and heavy flames,” Hanley said. “We attempted to contain the flames, but we pretty much couldn’t do anything because it was pretty much fully involved.”

Firefighters had to stop extinguishing the fire, after identifying hazardous materials in the water. This prompted local crews to call in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Once the fire department determined there were hazardous materials involved, and those materials were leaving the facility and traveling down toward the Tellico Lake, they requested out assistance to provide technical assistance to make sure they do what’s proper and necessary to clean up the release,” Kevin Eichinger, EPA Federal On Scene Coordinator, said.

The EPA determined some of that hazardous material made its way into the Tellico Lake.

“Material did get into the lake,” Eichinger said. “A lot of water was used to extinguish the fire, so far there appears to be no impacts to the fish or other aquatic organisms in the lake.”

The EPA and local environmental crews spent the day assessing and cleaning up the damage to prevent further threats to wildlife.

“My specific crews are doing water sampling and water quality monitoring in the drainage area that leads to Tellico Lake to make sure that the water is not going to cause an issue,” Eichinger said.

Vonore Police Chief Randy Kirkland said that this marks the third fire at this location in recent years.

WATE 6 On Your Side had a crew at the scene and reported that Vonore, Madisonville, Lenoir City, Loudon County and Greenback fire crews have been at the scene.