Neighbors want answers following fire, explosion at Holston Army Ammunition Plant

Officials with the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Kingsport say all operations remain discontinued and the plant has been put into safe mode following a fire and explosion at the facility on Thursday. 

For decades, the sprawling plant has made explosives for the United States Department of Defense. 

About 1,100 people work at Holston Army Ammunition in Kingsport. 

For people like Annie Harell, who live near the plant, plumes of smoke are nothing out of the ordinary. 

“Sometimes when they are doing it you can smell,” Harrell said.

The Army regularly conducts open burning to dispose of hazardous waste. 

But on Thursday, a fire was reported around 8 a.m. near a building on the installation. An explosion was heard just before noon by our crew on scene.

RELATED: Army probes fire at Holston ammunition plant

Officials say an employee was released from the hospital Friday after spending the night for observation. 

But officials decided the safest option was to allow the building, full of explosives, to burn to the ground. 

“I did turn off my air condition system because I was concern about the air from outside,” Harrell said. “I have no idea what was burned there yesterday or what kind of chemicals were out in the air.”

WJHL asked Director of Public and Congressional Affairs Justine Barati what type of explosives and how much were burned during the fire. 

“Unfortunately, that information is not releasable for security reasons,” Barati said over the phone. 

She said the building that caught fire was 2,400 square feet.  

We’re told the United States Army will lead the investigation into what caused the fire. 

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) said they are working with local responders and the plant to investigate the incident, but the agency did not go to the plant Friday. 

TDEC said they will monitor their air quality stations, but WJHL found out TDEC’s closest air quality monitor from the plant was four to five miles away.

“I am concerned with the air that we breathe,” Harrell said. “How is it affecting not only the community but the people that work there?”

WJHL asked TDEC for the readings of the air quality station closest to the plant.

A TDEC spokesperson said the station had not been operational long enough to compare data to determine what impact the fire may have had. 

This comes as the Army plans a massive expansion project of the plant.

Officials with Holston Army say the fire will not halt any of those plans. 


Community members speak out against plans to expand Holston Army Ammunition Plant

Officials with Holston Army Ammunition conducting study to find safe alternative to open burning

State approves air quality permit for Phase 1 of Holston Army Ammunition Plant expansion

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