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Posted February 25, 2013 EST

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Huge Explosion Greets Firefighters At Harrogate Business
An explosion that sent flames 300 feet into the air rocked a Harrogate business this morning, but no firefighters were injured. I've never seen anything like that except on television, Harrogate Fire Chief Rick Davis said this morning. "It was a very, very large explosion as soon as we got on scene. I would estimate it shot flames 300 feet into the air."

Davis said firefighters already had no water hose in action and were preparing a second hose when the explosion erupted at Hunley Truck Repair on Londonderry Street.

"Due to their knowledge and where they were positioned, we didn't have any injuries," Davis said. "Believe me, I didn't know my men could move that fast."

Firefighters were alerted at 6:03 a.m. to the blaze when a neighbor alerted authorities. Davis said his firefighters from the Harrogate Volunteer Fire Department were on the scene in six minutes.

"An explosion is what woke up the neighbor who called 911," Davis said. "He looked out after the explosion and couldn't see the roof."

That first explosion apparently ripped the metal roof from the 3,000-square-foot, cinder block building, Davis said.

When firefighters arrived, Davis said "the roof had already collapsed and we had vehicles outside already on fire."

A Ford Mustang and a Chevrolet Blazer outside the business had to be extinguished by firefighters as they approached the structure. Davis said firefighters were able to move a Dodge pickup truck from the front of the building before it sustained damage.

Davis said business owner Jimmy Hunley had a six-wheel truck in the building upon which he was adding a tank to haul fuel.

"That's what he does there, he installs tanks on truck," Davis said. Hunley has been in business at the Londonberry Street location for 22 years, the chief said, but the building is older.

The business contained welding devices and acetylene tanks for cutting metal.

Davis said Hunley had personal belongings in the building, including a motorcycle and either a personal watercraft or a boat.

Firefighters left the scene after nearly five hours of battling flames and dousing hot spots, Davis said. The cinder block walls still stood, but Davis said the building is a total loss.

Davis said firefighters from Speedwell and Cumberland Gap volunteer fire departments joined the battle. The chief said about 20 firefighters operating eight pieces of equipment converged on the blaze.

Davis said the cause of the fire is unknown.

"We will look through the debris after it cools, but right now nothing looks suspicious," the chief said.

More details as they develop online and in Tuesday's News Sentinel.

Written by Knoxville News-Sentinel

Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix