The Ocoee Whitewater Center in Polk County, Tennessee, which hosted the whitewater events of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, is “a total loss” after a fire early Tuesday morning, officials said .
A passerby reported the fire just after midnight Tuesday, Polk County Sheriff Steve Ross told CNN. Several firefighters responded and were able to extinguish the fire, he said.
“The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating the cause of the fire,” according to a press release from the US Forest Service, which now operates the center.
No one was injured in the fire, according to the Forest Service.
The Ocoee Whitewater Center, located about 185 km north of Atlanta, pretend to be the site of the “world’s first Olympic whitewater event on a natural river”. The river’s flow was altered to “enhance its rapids” for the Olympics, according to the center’s website.
It is now a popular recreation area where visitors can raft the Ocoee River with local outfitters, bike or hike its trails, or simply enjoy a picnic. About 300,000 people visit the center each year, according to the Forest Service.
“First of all, we are so grateful that no one was injured during the fire and grateful to our partners for their assistance in bringing the fire under control and investigating the cause,” said Mike Wright, forestry supervisor by interim of the Cherokee National Forest. a statement on Tuesday.
“The Ocoee Whitewater Center was a unique site not just here in the Cherokee National Forest, but throughout the Forest Service. It’s a difficult loss for us,” Wright said.
The center will need to be “completely rebuilt,” Ross said.
The center building had been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the day-use area was due to open next month, according to its website.
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia company. All rights reserved.