An Aug. 7 fire that engulfed the roof of the Sumner County courthouse remains under investigation.
Projected to open in 2023, the building was still under construction on that Sunday when first responders first received reports of a fire around 8 p.m.
Several agencies responded including the Sumner County Sheriff's Office, Hendersonville Fire Department, Number One Fire Department, Gallatin Fire Department and other first responders.
About 30% of the surface area of the 220,000 square-foot building’s roof was impacted by the fire.
“It was (contained) to the roof and that’s a good thing because it contained the cost of damages,” Sumner County Mayor John Isbell said.
Petroleum-based roofing materials packaged in pallets on top of the roof burned in the fire, producing a dense black smoke.
Gallatin Police and Fire Departments initially led a joint effort in the investigation but have since incorporated the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in examining materials from the rooftop in search of the fire's origin.
“The TBI actually has a fire investigation unit that’s a resource that’s available across the state and with this being a public building with the potential dollar loss and the potential delay for construction we felt it was appropriate to bring that partner in to help us to speed the investigation up because they’re going to have some more resources that we don’t have that could help us determine the cause,” Gallatin Fire Chief Jeff Beaman said.
The source of the fire has not yet been identified.
“That investigation remains active and ongoing at this time,” Senior Public Information Officer Susan Niland said.
One theory the investigation aims to explore is the possibility of a lightning strike having ignited the fire, as storms in the area preceded the incident that evening.
“We are working with the National Weather Service to determine if there was a lightning strike that did occur in that area,” Beaman said.
Though the extent of the building’s damage is still being examined, materials continue to arrive at the site and officials remain hopeful the courthouse’s projected 2023 opening won’t be delayed by the incident.
“(Turner Construction Company and other sub-contractors) really rallied around to make sure we could get the materials and replacement materials in and take care of this project for Sumner County,”
A press conference held shortly after the incident highlighted the role local agencies played in managing the fire.
Sumner County Commissioner Leslie Schell, Gallatin City Mayor Paige Brown, Sumner EMA Director Ken Weidner, Gallatin Fire Chief Jeff Beaman and other officials gathered at Gallatin City Hall on Aug. 8 at 3 p.m. to discuss the fire’s impact.
“We received a call at 8:02 p.m. with the first arriving company to make the scene at 8:06, they initiated defensive operations using an aerial apparatus which initially kept the fire under control until we could send crews up the interior of the building,” Beaman said.
The fire was declared under control shortly after 9 p.m. and knocked down – meaning hot spots had been eliminated and no additional hazards were present – just after 10 p.m.
About 60 people were on scene at any given time participating in operations, Beaman said.
Fire companies had been cleared and returned to service around midnight.
Katie Nixon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 517-1285.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Sumner County courthouse fire remains under investigation