FACT CHECK: Does This Video Show Knoxville’s Sunsphere On Fire?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

A video shared on Facebook purportedly shows the Sunsphere in Knoxville, Tennessee, on fire.

Verdict: False

The footage actually shows a pyrotechnic display at the Sunsphere. The Knoxville Fire Department refuted claims that the Sunsphere caught on fire.

Fact Check:

The Sunsphere, originally constructed for the 1982 World’s Fair, features an observation deck where visitors can typically access a 360-degree view of Knoxville, according to the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. World’s Fair Park, where the structure is located in Knoxville, currently states on its website that the observation deck is temporarily closed until further notice.

Claims about the Sunsphere supposedly catching on fire Sunday night have circulated widely in recent days, with this particular Facebook post alleging, “Sunsphere currently on fire. Around for 40 years only to be taken out by a chicken wing festival.” World’s Fair Park hosted the Big Kahuna Wing Festival on Sept. 5, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. In the footage shared on Facebook, the Sunsphere can be seen brightly lit with smoke wafting away from it.

The Knoxville Fire Department on Sunday night addressed rumors of the Sunsphere catching fire, tweeting, “There is video floating around showing the sun sphere on fire. It’s just not true!” In another tweet, the fire department explained that the “sparks were from a firework display after the Big Kahuna Wing Fest wrapped up.”

The Knoxville Fire Department on Sunday also tweeted a screen grab of footage of the fireworks display, reiterating that it showed the “Big Kahuna Firework finale” and “Not the sun-sphere on fire.” (RELATED: Does The Fire Suppression System In Yale’s Beinecke Library Cut Off Oxygen If There Is A Fire, Killing Those Inside? )

The Big Kahuna Wing Festival published footage of the full fireworks display as seen from the park in a Facebook livestream. In that video, the Sunsphere briefly illuminates with fireworks before darkening when the pyrotechnics in that portion of the show finish.

Check Your Fact didn’t find any local media outlets such as the Knoxville Daily Sun, WATE 6 or Fox 43 reporting about the Sunsphere catching fire on Sept. 5. Rather, local NBC affiliate WBIR 10 and CBS affiliate WVLT 8 have debunked viral rumors to that effect in the past few days.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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