Firefighters with two fire departments responded to a fire at Steve Ray's Midnight Oil service station on Lee Highway around 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Firefighters with the Tri-Community Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene first.
Battalion Chief Charlie Thomason reported heavy fire and smoke coming from the rear of the structure. As the firefighters began pulling off handlines to fight the fire, Chief Thomason called for a full response from the Chattanooga Fire Department to make sure enough resources were on hand to stop the fire.
The Tri-Community firefighters attacked the fire aggressively, initially from the outside, but later, they made an interior attack and got the fire out. No injuries were reported. Chattanooga firefighters with several fire companies arrived to help finish extinguishing the fire, and assisted later with putting out hot spots in the walls and roof. Elements of the haz-mat team were also called in to help clean up petroleum products that had leaked out during the fire.
Chief Thomason said the fire damage was contained to the shop area, but there was some smoke and water damage to the office. The rest of the building and gas pumps were all spared from the fire. The loss was estimated at $300,000, but the quick work by the firefighters saved a business worth $1.5 million.
Owner Steve Ray told firefighters that he and some employees were draining a gas tank and he thought he had plenty of ventilation to keep the fumes from building up. However, he said the fumes apparently found an ignition source and a fire broke out. Mr. Ray said he tried to use portable fire extinguishers to put the fire out, but they were ineffective and they had to get out and call 911. Mr. Ray took the damage from the fire in stride. "I'm just glad no one got hurt," said Mr. Ray. "I have insurance and things can be replaced." A fire investigator confirms that the cause of the fire appears accidental, but what exactly sparked the blaze remains under investigation.
Chattanooga Police, Hamilton County EMS and the Hamilton County 911 Incident Management Team also provided assistance on the scene. Steve Ray's Midnight Oil has been in business for 35 years in Ooltewah.