Ole Smoky gets warning for trash fire

Dec. 07, 2013 @ 11:45 PM

The owners of Ole Smoky Distillery got a warning from the county fire investigator Friday after employees burned trash at one of their facilities without a permit, and are waiting to hear if they could face punishment from the state because the refuse reportedly included plastic bottles.

Firefighters were called to the location off Birds Creek Road Thursday morning after the owner of a neighboring business reported the smoke and fumes from the fire were making him and some of his customer sick. They found that at least one employee had started a fire in a burn pit and was burning some wooden materials and some plastic containers.

The fire was extinguished, and Sevier County Fire Investigator J.J. Breeden said Friday that the site had been cleaned up when he and state officials visited it that morning.

“As far as my part goes, I gave them a warning for the burning,” he said. “Everything was cleaned up.”

It was the first time his office was aware of that the business had burned without a permit, Breeden said, and he typically issues warnings to first-time offenders in cases like that.

The spokesperson for Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation confirmed officials there were also investigating the incident, but said it will be next week before they are ready to announce anything.

“The Division of Air Pollution at the Knoxville Field Office has received a complaint, and we are currently investigating that complaint,” Shannon Ashford said. “We should have further information on Monday.”

John Eachus, who called in the complaint, said this wasn’t actually the first time the employees had burned similar materials, and that he had complained to them before, but hadn’t reported the matter to any authorities until Thursday.

Eachus said he and his wife have respiratory issues and the smoke was making it worse; he said it was also driving customers away from his shop.

Ole Smoky owner Joe Baker said Thursday he was not aware of any other time employees had burned materials there, and that the employee was disciplined for burning at the site without permission. He said they wouldn’t have another fire at that site.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com