Tennessee House Fire Offers Valuable Safety Lesson

Chattanooga (TN) firefighters put out hot spots at the house fire on Crutchfield Street.


By Bruce Garner

When fire breaks out in a home, a closed door can mean the difference between life and death. That’s well known in the fire service, but a Chattanooga (TN) firefighter said Thursday’s fire on Crutchfield Street offered a great illustration on how important a closed door can be in the event of a fire.

Close the Door: Small Towns, Big Impact

First and foremost, the family–three adults and one child–is alive because four Chattanooga police officers pried off security bars to get them out a window. Lt. Darwin Sanders with Quint 10 said the family could not get out of the house, because fire was blocking their way out the front and back doors, and all the windows were blocked by security bars. Lt. Sanders said three Chattanooga police officers ran around the house and located the family, trapped in a back bedroom. They reportedly used a crowbar to pull off the security bars and then helped each family member through the small window.

However, Lt. Bobby Morgan with Quint 1 (Q1) said the family did something right, too.

Here is Morgan’s observation, in his own words:

“On the fire at 1207 Crutchfield St on 03/19/15, Q1 crew made entry through the back door for fire attack and search and rescue operations. We were met with high heat and rapid fire conditions, the temp at that time was not readable on the thermal imaging camera. We made an attack on the fire and was able to knock down the fire enough to get to the rear bedrooms for a search. The hallway temp was observed on the thermal imaging camera over 300 degrees. The door to the bedroom where CPD had pulled the occupants out of the window, was closed. Upon entry to the bedroom, the temp was 120 degrees at the ceiling and below a 100 degrees at the floor, with light smoke conditions. The door being closed held back the smoke and high heat long enough to allow the CPD officers to remove the bars from the window and rescue the occupants. I think the public should know just how important it is to close doors when in this type of situation. The door being closed by the occupants allowed that extra time that was needed for CPD to rescue them. We always talk about the importance of a working smoke alarm, but I think we should also let the public know just how important closing doors can be to Life Safety. In this case it helped save their lives.”

So in addition to having working smoke alarms in your home and a fire escape plan for your family, remember to close the doors behind you to slow down the spread of the smoke and fire. And if you do find yourself of being in the terrible position of being trapped in a room by fire, remember to close the door and place something at the base of the door to keep the smoke out.

Bruce Garner is the public information director for the Chattanooga (TN) Fire Department.



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