Firefighters called to Ole Smoky burn site
A county fire investigator and state officials are expected to return to an Ole Smoky Moonshine location off Glades Road Friday after employees there reportedly burned items including plastic bottles without a burn permit Thursday morning.
Firefighters were called to the location Thursday morning after the owner of a neighboring business reported smoke that, he said, was making it difficult for himself, his wife and their customers to breathe.
County fire investigator J.J. Breeden said Thursday that he hadn’t been to the scene yet, but expected to be there Friday along with officials from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Breeden confirmed that Gatlinburg firefighters found that employees there were burning without a permit, and that it appeared at least some plastic bottles had been burned at the site.
"What I was told on the phone is, they were burning some wood material and they did burn some plastic containers in the burn pile,” Breeden said.
Ole Smoky personnel indicated that an individual employee had decided to burn some materials without permission, Breeden said, and that this was the first time it had occurred.
The business didn’t have a burn permit, he said, but because it was the first time they were caught burning without a permit, they were issued a verbal warning.
It will be up to TDEC officials to determine if there will be any fine for burning hazardous materials, he said.
John Easchus, the owner of Talking Turkey, a neighboring business, said it wasn’t the only time they’d burned plastics at the site, but it was the first time he had reported it.
Easchus said that there had been similar fires at the site on several occasions, and that last week he had complained to an employee at the site and asked them to stop.
“My wife and I both have serious respiratory issues, and this is making them worse and it’s driving customers away,” he said.
Easchus said that Thursday evening, he saw people at the site clearing ashes from the earlier fires and the one Thursday, which he said took place in a different area from the earlier fires. He sent The Mountain Press pictures of several men in T-shirts and jeans, who appear to be shoveling a material from the gravel road into a red barrel.
Ole Smoky owner Joe Baker said Thursday that he also understood that one of the employees had taken individual action to burn some materials, which he understood might have included plastics.
“They’ve been disciplined and it won’t happen again,” he said.
He said they didn’t want to cause problems for neighbors, and he hoped there wouldn’t be further issues.
Baker said he was not aware of any cleanup taking place at the site Thursday evening.