Hearth Causes ‘Whole Loss’ at Former Olympic Venue Ocoee Whitewater Heart

On Tuesday, native officers and the U.S. Forest Service started investigating a hearth that destroyed the Ocoee Whitewater Heart.

A number of firefighting crews rushed to the Ocoee Whitewater Heart within the early morning on April 26, the place a hearth was rapidly consuming the constructing. They might in the end render their efforts in useless.

Quickly, stone columns, sections of a collapsed tin roof, and smoke have been all that remained of the enduring customer heart.

The placement hosted whitewater occasions on the 1996 Summer time Olympics at its peak. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which manages the positioning, advised native ABC affiliate 9 Information it noticed as much as 300,000 guests per 12 months.

Officers later referred to as the incident a “whole loss,” and an investigation is underway.

Ocoee Whitewater Heart Hearth Investigation

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) initially despatched bomb and arson squads to the positioning and now collaborates with the USFS to find out potential causes. Nobody was injured within the blaze.

One concept entails a tractor-trailer hearth that crews responded to about 2 hours earlier. Mark Senterfitt, Captain of East Polk Hearth Division, defined that some firefighters responded to the Whitewater Heart incident from a automobile hearth simply miles down the highway. Regardless of their proximity, there was little they might do to include the aggressive hearth.

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“There was hearth actually popping out of each inch of the constructing,” Senterfitt mentioned. “It was totally concerned once we bought right here, so you understand there wasn’t loads we may do.”

Polk County Sheriff Steve Ross spoke concerning the constructing’s significance amongst locals.

“There’s lots of people that’s been on this river their entire life. And, you understand, that’s simply a part of them. And this [center] goes to be missed, however hopefully, we are able to get this rebuilt,” he mentioned.

Ross additionally mentioned he didn’t see a connection between the 2 fires on Tuesday morning. In the meantime, the USFS advised 9 Information it’s too quickly to say whether or not the middle will likely be rebuilt.

Neighborhood Rallies for Ocoee

Olympic slalom canoer Joe Jacobi referred to as the Ocoee River dwelling for two many years beginning in 1995. “What the Ocoee represents to me is a variety of progress in my very own life. I feel it represents that for lots of people,” he mentioned.

Jacobi additionally identified that the middle’s reputation gave the small surrounding neighborhood — often known as the Copper Basin — an important alternative.

“We watched these small cities undergo so many troubled occasions within the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s, after which with the Olympics, that basically gave these small communities, a neighborhood of small communities, an opportunity to actually reinvent themselves,” he mentioned.

“It gave folks from the bigger cities a focus, a magnet to say, ‘Let’s go to the Cherokee Nationwide Forest, however not simply the nationwide forest. Let’s go to the Ocoee Whitewater Heart, the place that hosted the 1996 Olympic Video games.’”

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Native enterprise Ocoee Inn Rafting commented, “We’re extraordinarily saddened by the hearth and subsequent lack of the Ocoee Whitewater Heart. We’re grateful that there have been no accidents and for the Polk County first responders on the scene. For these planning on rafting this weekend, these current occasions is not going to have an effect on the rafting schedule.”

As of now, the middle stays closed, as do a number of trails within the space, however roads within the space have since reopened. Native sources report that the middle ought to reopen inside just a few days, and native rafting companies will stay open as nicely.

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