Officials say nothing toxic was released into the community following multiple explosions and a fire at Safeco in Gray last Monday night, but the fire has had a significant impact on the West Knox Fire Department, which is scrambling to replace 12 sets of turnout gear and nine sections of hose.
Chief Daryl Baker said in the course of fighting the fire at the tire recycling center on Ky. 233, turnout gear and nine sections of hose became soaked in oil and diesel fuel.
“We tried to wash them (the gear and hoses) but it won’t come out,” Baker said, noting the cost of replacing the gear and hoses is estimated at $25,000 to $30,000.
The bill Safeco will receive will include the cost to replace the damaged gear and hoses.
“We have 38 volunteers and 12 of them don’t have gear,” Baker said.
After speaking with officials at neighboring Woodbine and Keavy volunteer fire departments, Baker said those departments have agreed to loan West Knox some of the extra gear they have on hand. Baker estimated that could temporarily replace as many as eight sets of gear.
In addition, Baker said he and some of the other firefighters can leave their gear at the station with the trucks for use by the responding firefighters.
However, turnout gear is not one-size-fits-all and a new set takes up to two months to come in after it is ordered.
“It still depends on the size of the gear and the firefighters who need it,” Baker said.
Baker said a new set of turnout gear has a 10-year lifespan, after which it must be replaced.
The department has a rotation process ongoing whereby three sets of gear are replaced annually.
Baker said members of the community are more than welcome to contribute toward the purchase of the new gear, noting any donations are very much appreciated.
Anyone that wants to help may contact the fire department at 528-1700 or come by Station One next to the old Lynn Camp School after 6 p.m. on Monday.
“There is no option not to replace it,” Baker said. “We have got to come up with the money.”
Firefighters were called to the scene about 9:20 p.m. following reports of multiple explosions in the area.
Baker said the explosions were propane tanks inside the plant where tires are shredded and oil is extracted from the remains.
Knox County Emergency Management Director Mike Mitchell said there was approximately 300 to 350 gallons of oil at the plant when the explosion occurred.
Firefighters were on scene until after midnight battling the blaze.
No one was injured in the explosion or the fire.