Landfill garage, trucks destroyed in weekend fire

Published 3:30 pm Monday, January 22, 2018

An early morning blaze at the Carter County landfill over the weekend destroyed a garage and equipment, and could lead to an interruption of some landfill services.

“We’re in total shutdown, as far as our equipment,” said Carter County Solid Waste Director Benny Lyons.

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The fire destroyed three of the landfill’s trucks — a front-loader used to empty dumpsters and recycling bins, a pickup truck used to haul fuel for the landfill’s equipment, and the roll-off truck which Lyons purchased not long ago.

According to Lyons, the landfill is currently using two old trucks which had been replaced with the purchase of the roll-off truck and front-loader. However, those trucks are very old and have a lot of miles on them and are not reliable for long-term day-to-day operating use.

“I kept them as back-ups rather than getting rid of them,” Lyons said of the old trucks. “If something breaks down, some of the services may have to stop for a while.”

The fire started at the landfill in the early morning hours on Saturday, according to Lyons. One of the employees arrived at the landfill shortly before 7 a.m. on Saturday and found the garage was on fire. Lyons said the employee called 911 to report the fire and then called him.

“When he said the garage was on fire, I thought I was dreaming,” Lyons said.

Lyons is a volunteer firefighter with the Stoney Creek Volunteer Fire Department. Lyons was one of the many firefighters who responded to the fire at Barnett’s Guns and Indoor Range in Hampton on Friday afternoon. He was on that scene for several hours and returned home around 11:30 p.m. on Friday.

After receiving the call from the employee, Lyons immediately went into action. Lyons grabbed his turnout gear, which was frozen solid from fighting the fire in the cold the night before, and left his home.

“I went straight to our station at Hunter and got our truck and came straight here,” Lyons said.

As with the fire at the gunshop, several firefighters from several different fire departments showed up to battle the blaze at the landfill.

Firefighters were able to eventually put out the fire, but not before it destroyed both the front and rear portions of the garage and the three trucks. In addition to the trucks, Lyons said the fire also destroyed a new welder which he had purchased less than a month ago and a lot of equipment he purchased with grant funding, including the heating system which runs off of used motor oil.

“It’s killed me,” Lyons said on Monday morning as he once again surveyed the damage. “We’ve done so much work in here.”

“I’ve fought hard for the last 10 years to get what we’ve got here, and now it’s nothing,” he continued. “It’s sickening. This is going to set us back 10 years.”

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, according to Lyons.

Since word spread of the fire on Saturday, Lyons said he has received many calls offering support and assistance. Several members of the Carter County Commission called to check on him and to see what he needs, Lyons said. “I’ve got good Commissioners,” he said.

Lyons asks that as he and his department recover from the fire, local businesses and organizations that have recycling bins or cardboard dumpsters to please have patience as the landfill works to try to get back on their feet. “We will empty the containers, it might just take us a little bit,” Lyons said.

Carter County Commissioner Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, who serves as Chairwoman of the Landfill Committee, told the Elizabethton Star she would be holding a special called meeting of the committee next week to discuss the fire, landfill operations, and plans for replacing equipment that was lost.