Chattanooga firefighters had a busy night, responding to numerous calls that ended with a two-alarm apartment fire in Hixson. A passing motorist was among several who called 911 Communications, saying flames were visible at North River Village apartments at 5407 Hixson Pike. The Chattanooga Fire Department was notified at 4:29 a.m. and responded with six fire companies.
Captain Rusty Rymer with Squad 19 said flames were shooting out the windows of one of the apartment units when the first firefighters arrived. This is a two-story building, with individual businesses on the first floor, and 11 apartment units on the second. Seeing the potential for a very large fire, Battalion Chief Jeff Eldridge called for a second alarm response to bring in additional equipment and personnel.
As other fire companies arrived, firefighters banged on apartment doors, alerting the residents to get out. In the meantime, the flames continued to spread and trapped two residents in their apartment. Tun Myint and Win Thein in Apartment 201 attempted to go out their front door, but were blocked by the fire on the outside of the building. They yelled for help and two firefighters who were nearby responded. Senior Firefighter Mark Brown and Firefighter Brad Ransom, both with Quint 19, took a hand-held hoseline and attacked the fire on the outside of Apartment 201. Once the fire was knocked down, the two men safely got out of their apartment. They were treated on the scene by Hamilton County EMS for what appeared to be minor smoke inhalation.
Chattanooga firefighters aggressively fought the fire -- saving a good portion of the building -- and eventually got the blaze under control around 6 a.m. No injuries were reported. Several businesses were damaged, and the fire displaced residents in the 11 apartment units. Volunteers with the American Red Cross with Southeast Tennessee were called in to provide assistance to the residents. Red Cross officials planned to set up a temporary shelter for the victims at the Hixson Recreation Center.
No injuries were reported in connection with this fire, but there were some close calls. Craig Cole in Apartment 205 told Lt. Waters that he woke up and found his apartment was full of smoke. Mr. Cole said he had to crawl to the front door to get out. He said his smoke alarm did not work.
The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental. Lt. Andrew Waters with the Fire Investigation Division believes the fire started accidentally, though what exactly sparked the blaze remains under investigation. An estimate on the dollar loss was not available.
Lt. Waters said all 11 apartments had smoke and water damage, and some of the businesses below had water damage. The American Red Cross of Southeast Tennessee has set up a “respite center” for the fire victims at the Hixson Recreation Center at 5401 School Drive in Hixson.
Chattanooga Police, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue and EPB also provided valuable assistance.