1850-era county residence destroyed from early morning fire, firefighters braved zero degree temps
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
Photo by Kerri Bartlett
During the midnight hour this morning, the historic Fairmount home located at 2163 Old Natchez Trace in Old Towne, burned in a fire that could not be contained.
The fire still burns at 10:30 a.m. of what was a classic Greek Revival antebellum home, leaving only three brick chimneys and two columns of the original residence that sat on 15 acres. The home was listed on the National Register Properties.
Previous owner Everett Covington passed away last May when his children Lucy and Steve Covington and Margie Encke inherited the landmark. He bought the historic place in 1965.
Mr. Covington, who died last summer, purchased the home with his wife in 1965. He was a longtime member of Bethlehem United Methodist Church. He also served on the board of the Harpeth Valley Utility District.
"It's like seeing your past go up in flames. It reminds you to live in the now," Lucy said, who stood outside almost the entire morning. She said that since she had lived in the area on and off since high school, the support of longtime friends and neighbors brought comfort.
The home was filled with her fathers's antiques from his estate, which had not yet been settled.
"The home was decorated early American," Lucy said.
The cause of the fire is not yet officially determined, but Lt. Chris Phelps with the Williamson County Rescue Squad noted that the nature of the fire indicated an accidental cause.
"It seemed to have started in the walls," Lucy said.
Another small wooden cabin-like home sits on the property, which the family leases, while a renovated white barn serves as another place of residence on the property.
The Rescue Squad was called to the scene during zero to five-degree temperatures just after midnight with several stations responding from Grassland to Fairview and Downtown Franklin. The American Red Cross, Williamson Medical Center’s EMS, Williamson County Sheriff’s Department and Middle Tennessee Electric crews were also on the scene, Phelps said.
“We were initially met with heavy smoke conditions and because of the weather the smoke had banked down and you couldn’t see the home from the roadway.”
Phelps said an individual was trying to put out the fire, but the squad members quickly asked him to evacuate the burning house.
As firefighters began to try to contain the blaze from the seat of the fire, they quickly learned “it had already spread inside the walls and was in void spaces and hid from plain view.”
“The fire had extended throughout the walls and into the attic,” Phelps said. “At that time all the people, all the water, and all the hoses could not put out the BTUs it was putting out. We changed from an offensive mode, with crews inside applying water, to a defensive attack to mitigate the risk of collapse.”
Phelps said at some point firefighters must assess risk versus benefit.
“We will do a fire report, however, there was nothing we believe to be suspicious.”
“It was brutally cold,” Phelps confirmed, adding that crews rotated throughout the night.
Pam Horne contributed to this story.
Posted on: 1/29/2014