Lunceford: Fires that damaged shooting range, landfill appear accidental

Published 3:18 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A pair of fires that damaged a local business and the county’s landfill in recent days both appear to be accidental according to Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford.

Deputies of the Carter County Sheriff’s Office responded to a structure fire at Barnett’s Guns and Indoor Range, located at 118 First Ave. in Hampton, on Friday afternoon after receiving a report of a structure fire at the business.

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The fire broke out around 4:30 p.m. Friday in the indoor shooting range area of the business, which suffered substantial damage. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the shooting range, but the remainder of the facility also sustained some damage.

Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said the fire started after an individual inside the shooting range fired a “tracer round” inside the facility.

Tracer rounds are bullets which have been coated or embedded with chemical compounds which burn brightly after the bullet is fired and leave a visible trail in the bullet’s path.

“Those things are not made for indoor ranges,” Lunceford said. “They are phosphorous rounds, so they have to be smothered.”

Lunceford said the tracer round embedded in the backstop at the indoor firing range, which he said he believes is made of rubber. Once embedded, the bullet began to smolder and ultimately caused the fire. Because the fire caused by tracer rounds is a chemical reaction, the fire cannot be doused with water.

Lunceford said the fire caused by the tracer round at the facility was accidental. “There was nothing criminal,” he said.

After several hours of battling the fire at Barnett’s Guns and Indoor Range, firefighters and deputies were called early Saturday morning to respond to a fire at the Carter County Landfill.

“The one at the landfill appears to be accidental as well,” Lunceford said. “There is no foul play suspected. No cause has been determined yet. It might have been electrical.”

The fire at the landfill was discovered by an employee shortly before 7 a.m. on Saturday. The blaze destroyed the landfill’s garage, three trucks, and several other pieces of vital equipment and tools.

Carter County Solid Waste Director Benny Lyons said the landfill operations will be hampered by the loss of the equipment and trucks. On Monday morning, Lyons told the Elizabethton Star his employees are using two old trucks which had recently been removed from service due to their age and working condition but had been kept as backup equipment. However, those trucks are not reliable for long-term day-to-day operations of the landfill, Lyons said.

If those backup trucks break down, Lyons said some landfill services could be interrupted.