Columbia investigators charge juvenile with arson after fire destroys industrial building

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COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) — Columbia authorities have charged a juvenile with arson after a major blaze that destroyed an industrial facility and threatened a nearby train loaded with flammable materials.

The fire broke out around 6:30 Wednesday night at an industrial facility at 1116 School Street. Fire investigators said there was a lot of combustible material there, including multiple automobiles and equipment loaded with fuel.

Just as concerning was the railroad bridge a few yards from the corner of the structure. On top of the bridge was a train with many rail cars that officials said contained hazardous materials that could have been impacted significantly by the flames.

“When firefighters arrived on scene, they found immediate safety issues with rail cars carrying hazardous materials in rail cars adjacent to the facility. It was a very dangerous situation,” Chief Ty Cobb said. “If one of those rail cars were to ignite you could have massive devastation throughout the area, including evacuation measures.”

As orange flames and black smoke fill the evening sky, calls began to flood 911.

Here’s a sample of the calls:

  • It’s by a bridge on fire.
  • It is engulfed.
  • It is going up the hill toward the railroad tracks near the tanker trucks up there.

Later in the battle, video showed firefighters smothering the gasoline-fueled blaze with foam. Eventually, the fire was knocked down.

Fire investigators tell News 2 all of the devastation was caused by a juvenile who is now charged with arson.

“[I] look at cases like this and scenes where a fire was deliberately set and how it affects firefighter safety and first responder safety and bystanders and residents, and it is important we get a conviction and arrest the subject who caused that fire,” Cobb said.

No firefighters were injured and Chief Cobb said pets in an apartment behind the building were also rescued.

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