The Knoxville Fire, Rescue, and Police Departments responded to a report of a possible fire at VA Building 67 Saturday morning around 11:00. Fire Chief Mike Roberts reports that a spectator at youth soccer matches in Youngs Park had spotted what appeared to be smoke or steam coming from a ventilator just below the roof of the multi-story building. When the first responders arrived on scene, the fire alarm was going off, but VA officials at the campus had not been alerted. Roberts said that when a fire alarm goes off in a VA building, a central office alert is normally triggered. This notification did not take place. As such, no key-holder was on scene to allow firefighters into the building when they arrived. Roberts reports that once notified, VA personnel responded quickly with a key. Upon entry firefighters found a broken steam pipe which was venting steam throughout the building.
The VA no longer has a fire department on campus, and Roberts reports that the City of Knoxville is responding to as many as three calls a month at the VA without compensation. Roberts sees this as an issue that needs to be addressed, in part because of the impact that it has on a largely volunteer fire and emergency services department, and also because there may be a time that resources that may be needed elsewhere are already deployed at the VA and unavailable in an emergency.