A few moments after Vernon Lane climbed into bed Thursday night, someone pounded on his door and yelled that there was a fire and he had to get out, reports timesfreepress.com.
Lane grabbed a few things and ran from his first-floor apartment in Hidden Creek Apartments on East Brainerd Road. As soon as he stepped outside, Lane — a lieutenant in the Chattanooga Fire Department — could tell it was bad.
“I saw [the fire] was in the roof and I knew it was going to take off on me,” he said.
He dumped his things in his truck and headed back inside to grab another load — and that’s when he saw a baby hanging out of a third-floor window, dangling from its mother’s hands. Behind Lane, some police officers were rushing toward the building with a mattress.
At that moment, the baby fell. And the mattress wasn’t close enough.
He dove for the baby and crashed into some bushes. They hit the ground together, the baby in his arms. Before he could get up, a woman landed on his back — the baby’s mother.
The 10-month-old boy was screaming, so Lane figured he was all right. Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services swooped up baby and mother, later identified as Bellnique Moon.
She and her husband both jumped — he went first and planned to turn around and catch his son, but was injured on impact and unable to help, fire department spokesman Bruce Garner said. The whole family is expected to be OK.
No one was killed in the fire, which destroyed much of the apartment building and left more than a dozen families homeless. Fifty firefighters spent more than an hour bringing the flames under control, Garner said, although the first firefighters arrived two and a half minutes after the call came in at 10:33 p.m.
Garner said the firefighters’ first priority is to clear the building, while at least one firefighter sets up the water supply as additional crews head to the scene.
The fast-spreading fire apparently had been burning for some time before it was discovered, Garner added.
Firefighters initially tried to fight the fire from inside but had to pull back. The apartment complex was built in 1986, without attic firewalls that could have helped slow the flames’ spread.
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