COPPERHILL, Tenn. (WATE) — A historic site in Polk County was deemed a total loss after a fire early Tuesday morning, taking with it some Olympic history. The Ocoee Whitewater Center, near Ducktown, Tenn. in the southeastern part of the state was the canoe slalom venue for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Crews in Polk County, as well as the USDA Forest Service, are still working the scene of the Ocoee Whitewater Center and assessing the damage. No injuries were reported from the fire.
The Forest Service said in a release later Tuesday morning that firefighters from Polk County responded to the fire and were able to get it under control, but the building was a complete loss. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating the cause of the fire, the Forest Service said, and no one is allowed on site until their investigation is complete.
The Forest Service also said with the Ocoee Whitewater Center closed, some associated trails are also closed including:
- Rhododendron Trail
- Bear Paw Loop Trail
- Old Copper Road Trail
- 64 Connector Path
- Chestnut Mountain Loop/Bear Paw Connector Trail
The Polk County 911 Emergency Community District said on its social media page Tuesday morning that Highway 64 had been completely shut down from Highway 314 to Ducktown due to the fire at the whitewater center. There was also a tractor-trailer fire along HIghway 64 between mile markers 16-17 prior to the whitewater center fire.
Officials at the scene told our ABC affiliate station WTVC News Channel 9 that the historic building was a total loss and multiple crews from Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina were on the scene. A fire captain told WTVC that the fire was left to smolder out for the next few days.
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By 7:38 a.m. Tuesday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Highway 64 had reopened. The cause of the fire at the Ocoee Whitewater Center is under investigation by the TBI.
“First, we are just so grateful that no one was injured during the fire and thankful to our partners for their assistance in getting the fire under control and investigating the cause,” Mike Wright, Acting Forest Supervisor for the Cherokee National Forest, said. “The Ocoee Whitewater Center was a unique site not just here on the Cherokee National Forest, but across the Forest Service. It is a difficult loss for us.”
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