By Fred Petke / Staff Writer

Rebecca Childress and Diana Compton never heard the explosion in Dr. Brent Chumbley’s office Thursday morning.

But they heard lab technician Ann Hoskins screaming as she tried to extinguish her burning clothes.

“I was headed back to the lab to see how bad it was,” Compton said. “I grabbed a fire extinguisher and heard a pop.”

Childress said she and two others were working in the upstairs office of Chumbley’s Master Street office in Corbin. There were no patients and Chumbley and most of the staff were working in Middlesboro Thursday morning, she said. No one heard the initial explosion, she said.

“I didn’t hear it, but (Hoskins) said something exploded,” Childress said.

Hoskins received first and second-degree burns on her stomach and arms, paramedics said. She was later transported to the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Chumbley said.

“Fortunately, she will be fine,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. She’s family.”

Firefighters are not sure what caused the explosion. Chumbley said the lab was equipped with natural gas and a Bunsen burner; his staff made retainers in the lab, he said.

Chumbley’s staff called 911 at 10:12 a.m. to report the blaze.

When the first Corbin fire truck crested the overpass, the building was already heavily involved.

“We came off the hill and it was rolling,” Corbin Fire Battalion Chief Barry McDonald said.

Firefighters from Corbin, and later West Knox Volunteer Fire Department, battled the fire well into Thursday afternoon as it spread from the lab up the walls and into the attic and roof. Firefighters attacked the burning second floor from the ground and the city’s ladder truck as the fire burned through the roof.

Corbin Fire Chief Gary Disney said the building’s construction didn’t help. The upstairs had two ceilings inside and three roofs overhead, topped with a metal roof.

The fire spread in between the layers, making it very difficult for firefighters to reach, he said.

“There was nothing we could do,” Disney said.

The lab and the second floor were destroyed but the front office escaped with water and smoke damage.

After most of the fire was extinguished, firefighters started carrying out files, computers and furniture to Chumbley’s anxious staff on the sidewalk.

Chumbley said he will reopen his practice in Corbin, though probably not in its present location on Master Street.

His Middlesboro office will remain open, he said.

“We saved some records, a computer and backups,” Chumbley said. “We’ll be back for sure.”



Fred Petke can be reached at fpetke@thetimes-tribune.com.

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