Fire destroyed a Highland Park home late this morning, despite a valiant effort on the part of Chattanooga firefighters.
A passing motorist was the first to observe smoke coming from the roof of the house at 1604 E. 12th Street, after which, he called 911.
When Chattanooga firefighters arrived on the scene moments later, the top portion of the house was engulfed in flames. When the firefighters hooked up to the closes fire hydrant, they discovered that it had been vandalized.
A retaining nut was missing, and without it, the water could not be turned on. While the firefighters quickly moved to the next closest hydrant, other firefighters on the scene used water out of the tanks of two apparatus to begin their attack on the flames.
In an effort to save the house, some firefighters made their way inside the structure to make an interior attack, but as the flames grew more intense, the roof showed signs that it was close to collapsing.
Battalion Chief Mack Moore called for an "emergency evacuation" and sounded a fire engine horn to quickly get everyone out. A portion of the roof collapsed while the evacuation was taking place, but no firefighters were injured.
Chief Moore said the roof collapse was a classic example of how dangerous the firefighting profession can be. "There's always an extra element of risk in making an interior attack," said Chief Moore. "I'm just glad we were able to get all of our firefighters out before one of them got hurt."
Once out of the house, Chattanooga firefighters worked to contain the fire and protect adjacent houses. The firefighters were able to save some furniture and personal belongings, but the house was considered a total loss.
The residents, Isaac and Charlene Grimes, were away at the time of the fire. The house was insured. The Red Cross was called in to provide assistance to the victims.
Technicians with the Tennessee American Water Company repaired the damaged hydrant shortly after being notified.
Chattanooga police, Hamilton County EMS and Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue also provided assistance on the scene. The cause of the fire is undetermined and under investigation.