EMA busy Friday afternoon and all day Monday
By Karen Hall
An Emergency Management Agency tanker truck crashed last Friday afternoon, and while EMA Director Bob Hopkins was at the scene of wreck, other emergency personnel were responding to a barn fire on Cornersville Highway.
"The front end (of the truck) started shimmying," said Hopkins. "The driver lost control and went through a fence row."
It happened on Delina Road, between SR 129 and Tollgate Road, east of Petersburg.
Hopkins said the truck could not be repaired, but he was going to attempt to find another chassis to put the tank on, since the tank itself was undamaged.
The barn fire was on the Pewitt family farm, between Cornersville and Lewisburg.
Assistant Fire Chief Chris Boatright said the call to the barn fire came about 2 p.m. He said a passerby told him the fire started at a tractor parked near the barn, and spread to the structure. The barn was a total loss.
In addition to Cornersville, South Marshall and Five Points Volunteer Fire Departments responded to the blaze, as well as the EMA and the Division of Forestry, which was called because the fire spread to the grass around the barn. They were all there for two and a half or three hours, Boatright said.
In spite of rain on Sunday, smoke was still rising from the remains of the barn on Monday morning. Boatright and Hopkins agreed round bales of hay are difficult to put out, and will smolder for a long time.
Monday morning, Lewisburg Fire Department was called to 120 Freeman Drive, on the west side of the city, because staff and students at Magnolia Academy were getting sick -- feeling dizzy, with throat and eyes burning.
"There was obviously something going on," said City Manager Randall Dunn. "It didn't take but a minute or two to notice if you went in there unprotected."
The fire department got some readings, but could not pinpoint the source of the problem, so state and federal teams were called.
"We were very busy with that," said Hopkins. "We had a real good response."
In a telephone interview Thursday, Dunn said the building remains shut down, with the residents transferred to a facility in Nashville.
"They couldn't point to a single contaminant," he said. There was evidence of mold, and there had been some problems with sewage backup in the past, Dunn said. Perhaps someone combined two cleaning products that should not have been put together, he said, but no one was aware of that happening, or admitted to it.
"It could be a combination of several things," Dunn concluded. Meanwhile, a certified environmental clean-up company, Hepaco, has been hired to clean the building from top to bottom, and no one but their employees is allowed inside.
The owner of the building is listed as American Commercial Realty of Louisville, Ky.