People expressed concern and fear to dispatchers after an explosion at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant last week, according to 911 calls obtained by the Bristol Herald Courier through a Freedom of Information Act request.
At approximately 8 a.m. Jan. 3, a fire broke out in a building toward the back of the property. The building contained explosives and was allowed to burn to the ground.
Holston Army supplies explosive materials to the U.S. Department of Defense and has been open since 1942. It is operated by BAE Systems.
The controlled fire caused an explosion that could be felt in Bristol and as far away as Abingdon. The fire was out by the next morning and an investigation was initiated.
“Investigations into what happened and any environmental implications are ongoing,” said Justine Barati, BAE spokeswoman and director of public and congressional affairs joint munitions command. “Results will be released when available, but it could take several weeks.”
The explosion prompted a number of calls to 911, which went to Kingsport Central Dispatch. The 911 calls that went to Sullivan County were transferred to Kingsport, according to Virginia Smelser, executive director of Sullivan County 911.
None of the callers were identified in the 2 ½ minutes of audio provided to the Herald Courier. The first caller said she was from the Orebank Road area.
“I heard a huge explosion that knocked things off the shelves in my house,” she said.
The dispatcher assured her that the Fire Department was on scene at BAE, but said they did not know exactly what happened.
Another caller said there had been a terrible explosion. The dispatcher said they were aware of it and advised people to stay inside their homes. There was a fire at BAE but they were not aware of anything else, the dispatcher told the caller.
One concerned woman asked if 911 could tell her what the explosion was and the dispatcher informed her of the fire and told her to stay inside as a precaution.
“I worked 32 years at Eastman, and I know an explosion when I hear it,” one woman said. “The main thing is no one got hurt.”
Dispatchers started asking people if they were calling about the explosion and informed callers about the fire. They told concerned callers that firefighters were on scene, and everything was under control.
One woman became emotional after learning of the fire.
“It was so bad,” she said. “I’m on Beachwood in Kingsport and my pictures fell off the wall and my lamps fell over. …Everybody’s OK? Thank God.”