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LAKE CITY - It's been described as the biggest fire in this city's history, and it took 50 firefighters from six area departments to bring it under control.
At one point during the blaze at a huge former manufacturing plant in the Lake City Industrial Park, there was an explosion that knocked a pickup that was inside the building some 20 feet, Lake City Fire Chief Sam Bailey said.
The 37,500-square-foot building, the former Mustang Manufacturing site on Hustler Boat Lane, was used as a storage warehouse by Dixie Roofing Co. of Campbell County. It contained five-gallon tar kettles with propane tanks, rolled rubber roofing materials, a forklift and two pickup trucks.
It was a total loss, Bailey said, and a juvenile is suspected of starting the blaze, reported to firefighters at 1:22 p.m. Saturday.
Owner Mike Malicote estimated the contents alone were worth $800,000, while the building was valued at $1.2 million, Bailey said.
"We've had some doozies," Bailey said of past blazes in Lake City, "but this is the biggest fire Lake City ever had."
One firefighter, Joe Gilliam, became dehydrated while fighting the blaze and was taken by ambulance to Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, where he was treated and released.
Firefighters and equipment from the Oak Ridge and Clinton city fire departments along with the Campbell County Rural Fire Service and the Caryville and Medford volunteer departments, assisted Lake City in fighting the fire, which Bailey said was finally contained around 11:30 p.m.
"I appreciate every one of those guys," Bailey said of the assisting firefighters.
"Our biggest problem was we didn't have enough water supply," Bailey said.
There was only one fire hydrant nearby, he said, and it only provided 500 gallons a minute.
A Medford pumper truck was used to siphon water from a creek to provide it to the Lake City firefighting pumper and Oak Ridge's aerial truck.
"If there hadn't been the creek there, we'd probably still be fighting it," Bailey said Monday of the blaze.
That aerial truck was used to cut a hole in the building to release the billowing black smoke from the structure, while Caryville provided a system for restocking firefighters' air supply bottles, Bailey said.
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