CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Investigators may be allowed as soon as today into the smoldering rubble of an empty Cleveland factory building that was destroyed by fire Thursday morning.
Firefighters were unable to say Thursday whether anyone was inside the long-vacant Cleveland Chair Factory.
The second and third floors collapsed onto the first floor, officials said, and some free-standing segments of brick wall were in danger of collapsing so investigators were not able to search right away, officials said.
"When it is deemed safe enough, investigators will go in," said Capt. Ron Harrison with the Cleveland Fire Department.
Firefighters were at the Ninth Street SE site all day Thursday, spraying the rubble and guarding against flare-ups.
"I don't know when the building was built, but the floors were wood, so this is a very volatile building," Cleveland Fire Department Capt. Mike Pierce said.
He said he wasn't sure when the factory stopped producing chairs. It was not immediately clear who owns the building.
The alarm was reported about 4:30 a.m., according to Harrison.
When they are allowed into the structure, investigators will be looking for a cause of the blaze and, potentially, for human remains if any homeless person may have been inside, said Ben Atchley, the department's training coordinator.
Harrison said a railroad track runs beside the building, and that also was a concern during the fire. The track was closed intermittently during the firefighting.
No firefighters were reported injured. They did, however, have to work in early morning freezing temperatures. Around one ladder truck, water spray had frozen on the weeds.
Traffic was rerouted around the area during the morning.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...