Clean up underway after fire at Chattanooga National Cemetery
Row after row of charred grass and stained headstones at the Chattanooga National Cemetery have crews working around the clock to clean it.
"We were a little surprised that we would have something like that in a National Cemetery," Cemetery Director Deborah Kendrick says.
Kendrick was at the cemetery Sunday after fire fighters put out the blaze. She says five of the 120 acres were damaged by the fire. "Roughly we estimated 1,800 headstones, that included some of the civil war sections," Kendrick says. Only three headstones will have to be replaced.
"I'm just thankful for the fire department showing up the way they did," says Kendrick.
The cemetery is made up of 36 sections, the fire only affected five sections thanks to the quick actions of fire fighters.
Still, news of a fire at the cemetery was cause for concern for people who have family buried there.
"I'm amazed that its not as bad as it could have been. They're doing a great job of repairing everything," says Chuck O'Mary.
O'mary has three family members buried in the National Cemetery. "I came to make sure it wasn't anyone in my family," O'Mary says.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation but officials say they have an idea of what may have started it. "Talking with the fire department, they're thinking that maybe someone may have tossed a cigarette butt out," Kendrick says.
Sunday's weather was dry and windy, perfect conditions for a grass fire to spread quickly. Cleanup will continue for awhile as officials try to notify everyone who was affected.
"If families have questions I will welcome them calling," says Kendrick. She can be reached at 423-855-6591.