Crews fight salvage yard fire in McMinn County Thursday morning

Crews in McMinn County spent Thursday morning fighting a fire at a wrecker service business and salvage yard.

Jim Dobbs was asleep a few houses down on State Route 135. He said the explosions frightened both him and his dogs.

"There were four consecutive booms," Dobbs said. "This day and time you don't know what's going on."

Dobbs was hearing tanks exploding at Benton's Wrecker Service. Something that proved a very dangerous task for firefighters.

"The metal building started collapsing and it made efforts getting inside to the fire extremely difficult," Riceville Fire Chief Brandon Ainsworth said. "Of course when you start dealing with wrecker services and shops, you're getting into settling torches and argon gases, etc. and there were a lot of explosions in there, most likely from those gases."

Ainsworth said by the time they arrived, the more than 4-thousand square foot workshop was covered in flames.

"We were completely defensive, just tried to surround and drown the best we could," Ainsworth said.

Owner David Benton has a home just a stone's throw from the workshop, but only his wife was home at the time. Fortunately, neither she nor any firefighters were hurt, and their home wasn't damaged.

But, they lost several vehicles and countless pieces of equipment inside the workshop. Now, the Benton's must begin the process of rebuilding.

The fire broke out around 4 a.m. at 626 County Road 135 in Riceville.

Firefighters were able to contain the flames shortly after 6 a.m.

Investigators are now trying to figure out exactly what happened.

Benton said he fears not everything that burned is covered on his insurance.

This is the second salvage yard fire in the NewsChannel 9 viewing area in three days. On Tuesday, dozens of cars went up in flames at Randy Bohanon Auto & Truck Parts on West Cloud Springs Road in Catoosa County. Read more about that here.

This is a developing story. Depend on us to bring you updates as we get them.

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