Fire fizzles fireworks store

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Owners say they will rebuild

By Joseph P. King II

PIONEER—The weekend blaze that destroyed the Fireworks Superstore near exit 141 on Interstate 75 took storeowners by surprise as they brace to pick up the pieces of their family business.

“We plan to [rebuild],” said Tyson Stowers, who worked in the store with his mother, Angela and, father, Reed — owners of the now destroyed business. “We just have to take the right measures to get everything settled with insurance.”

Stowers said his family has operated the location since 2008. Other than a second fireworks store in Luttrell, the gutted Pioneer store was the family’s sole source of income.

“You hear it happen to everybody else, but when you see it happen to you, it’s very surreal,” he added.

The fire reduced the building to rubble and consumed the entire inventory inside.

“The building was totally involved with fire when we got here — fireworks were going off, we had three propane tanks we were trying to protect and police had the median and interstate shut down,” said Caryville Fire Chief Eddie Hatmaker. “When we got here, flames were coming through the roof.”

When the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Caryvill Police Department arrived on the scene, the Tennessee Highway Patrol already had the road closed, TDOT Community Relations Manager Mark Nagi said.

“TDOT positioned trucks at the back of the queue to warn approaching motorists,” Nagi said. “Efforts were in progress to set up a detour at exit 160. However, the roadway was opened before the detour was implemented. TDOT HELP patrolled the back up to assist any disabled motorists.”

Both directions of I-75 between exit 141 and mile marker 142 were closed while efforts to quell the fire continued. The interstate was closed as a safety pre-caution from 4:15 until 5:20 p.m., Nagi added.

“There were fireworks going off as a result of the fire and some discharging in the direction of the interstate,” Nagi said. “The grass in the median area of the interstate ignited with fire and had to be extinguished by the fire department.”

The call for the fire came in about 4:16 p.m. and Caryville fire fighters didn’t return to the station until about 11 p.m, Hatmaker said. More than 65 responders from 14 area agencies worked to extinguish the blaze.

“It seemed pretty unimaginable to me,” said Caryville firefighter Cody Gaylor.

The cause of the fire was still being researched by Fire and Arson Investigation as of Tuesday, but Hatmaker said he believes the fire began somewhere in the back of the building.

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire. Hatmaker estimated it will take months to clean up the wreckage.

State Rep. Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro) said he believes Tennessee safety laws regarding fireworks don’t need to be changed and are effective if obeyed.

In recent history there have been two other incidents in Campbell County where fireworks were involved in structure fires, one in 2011 when a store ignited and a more severe incident in 1997 when mass fireworks storage unit erupted.