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Photograph by Parrish Elliott

Photograph by Parrish Elliott

The following report was written by Pegram Investigator Fred Page. His report is a compilation of the information gathered by the joint investigation that finalized last Friday, involving himself and all the insurance investigators and engineers. The building was released back to the owner that same day. No word on when the cleanup and/or demolishing process will begin. We thought the report was so thorough that we would print it in its entirety.

• At 2:45 p.m. on Saturday February 1st, Cheatham County Dispatch paged out the Pegram and Kingston Springs Fire Departments for a structure fire at 542 Highway 70 (Pegram Value-Plus Supermarket) for a fire in the back room.

• The owner, Danny Patel, had seen smoke on a camera that looked at the rear of the store. He went back to investigate and found flames above the door going to the compressor room at the left rear corner of the store.

• The first unit on scene was Pegram Engine 502. E502 arrived on scene 5 minutes after being notified and found heavy fire from the rear exterior of the store.

• Firefighters Thomas Kosinski and Casey Napier (eight days back from his tour in Afghanistan) stretched hose lines to the rear of the store while engineer John Sullivan secured a water supply to a hydrant adjacent to the strip mall.

• Firefighters Napier and Kosinski extinguished all visible fire at the rear of the building and turned off the natural gas that had been burning and fueling the fire after the gas meter itself had melted.

• Other Pegram and Kingston Springs units were responding from a brush fire in Kingston Springs’ fire district near the Cheatham/Dickson County Line.

• Pegram Fire Investigator Fred Page began his investigation that day.

• Due to the number of insurance companies representing the various tenants of the strip mall, the investigation was put on hold until all the insurance companies could hire their own investigators and a date for all of them to attend a joint investigation could be decided upon.

• After several delays, that joint investigation concluded last Friday, March 14th.

• Engineers hired by the insurance companies determined that the fire was not caused by electrical circuitry or appliances (such as the many compressors for the refrigerated and frozen food in the supermarket) or the heating cooling equipment for the store.

• Investigators determined that there was no initial gas leak from the incoming natural gas line that might have been the fire’s first fuel.

• After eliminating all other possible causes of this fire, Investigator Page and his colleagues were able to determine that this fire was caused by the spontaneous ignition of towels that had been used by the butcher in the cleaning of his butchering table. After use, the towels were placed in an outside container near the back door of the store. The fatty acid in the used towels broke down chemically and produced heat that, when the towels were compressed into a bag, they had no place to ventilate. The heat built until the cloth towels reached their ignition temperature.

• In this case, the burning container of towels next ignited a stack of plastic flats sitting next to the towel container.

• The burning towels and plastic flats melted a refrigerant line directly above them, spewing Freon (which auto-ignites at 632°F) in the direction of the natural gas utility entrance at temperatures of more than 1200°F, enough to melt the aluminum housing of the gas meter.

• It was likely at this point that store owner Danny Patel first noticed the smoke on his video monitor screen and went to investigate.

• This photograph was taken by Parrish Elliott, who works in another one of the stores in the strip mall, a minute or two before the arrival of Engine 502. It shows clearly the major portion of the fire low to the ground where the towels and flats were located, but with flames blowing back from the gas line and already extending up into the roof area of the store.

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