TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
A two-alarm structure fire early Monday morning extensively damaged the Corbin Ice Company plant at 1311 Cumberland Falls Highway.
A total of 40 firefighters and 12 fire apparatus vehicles from four departments fought the blaze, which began before 1:10 a.m.
Damage from the fire was estimated by the Corbin Fire Department to be at $1,550,000 — $1 million to the property and $550,000 to the plant’s contents.
No one was injured in the fire.
Corbin Fire Chief Barry McDonald said Monday that arson was not the cause of the fire, and that the exact cause would be determined later.
Both McDonald and Corbin Fire investigator Eric Philpot were among those responding to the blaze Monday morning. They returned by afternoon to conduct a routine investigation of the fire scene, joining Detective Bill Rose of the Corbin Police Department, an official with the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Greg Botner, a co-owner of Corbin Ice.
“It’s a standard procedure,” McDonald added.
Botner was twice contacted for an interview Monday. As of 8 p.m., he did not return calls.
Corbin fire officials said the first alarm was received at 1:10 a.m. Corbin firefighters got the page around 1:15 a.m. with the first crew arriving at the scene three minutes later.
When they got there, the fire, smoke and heat was widespread.
A call for mutual aid was sent out, with Oak Grove, Woodbine and West Knox Volunteer Fire Departments coming to assist at the scene.
The fire was through the roof on one section of the one-story structure, and going into the attic on another section of the building. A ladder truck was set up, to hit the fire with water, while three 1 3/4 inch hand lines were used to fight the rest of the blaze.
Fire records indicated the rest of the roof collapsed on the building’s main section, which kept the flames out of the room where ice machines and anhydrous ammonia were located.
Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless, highly irritating gas used in commercial ice-making. Because of its low cost and high energy efficiency, it’s used in industrial refrigeration applications, as well as for ice in hockey rinks. It releases sharp, suffocating fumes.
Officials with the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were called, as were Delta Natural Gas, Corbin City Utilities, the Whitley County Health Department, Kentucky Emergency Management’s Region 9 Regional Response Manager, Jerry Rains; and Danny Moses, Emergency Management Director for Whitley County.
McDonald said the fire did not spread to the room where the anhydrous ammonia was located.
A tanker truck was called in to remove the anhydrous ammonia from the plant site.
It took a couple of hours to get the blaze under control, with the final crew leaving the scene to return back to the fire station at 8:09 a.m.
First-responders worked in rough conditions during the early morning hours, with frigid temperatures in the 20s, along with sharp winds, as well as ice from the water fighting the fire. Seven EMT’s and three units from Whitley County EMS were also on-scene during the fire, as were several members of the Corbin Police Department who assisted with traffic control and other essential functions.
A section of Cumberland Falls Highway between Bacon and South Maple Avenue was closed off for a couple of hours, while first responders battled the blaze.