Chattanooga firefighters rushed to a fire at Montclaire Apartments at 4126 Mountain Creek Road this morning around 7am, but despite their best efforts, one person perished in the fire.
Captain Ralph Sparks with Quint 17 said he could see a huge plume of smoke when his company left Station 17 on Signal Mountain Boulevard.
As Quint 17 approached the apartment complex, flames burst through the roof, which prompted Captain Sparks to call for a second alarm response. Twelve fire companies with approximately 50 firefighters fought the roaring blaze from all sides.
The fire had already engulfed three units, and was threatening to spread to several additional units in the two-story building. The flames were temporarily held back by a "fire stop." A fire stop is usually made of dry wall or similar products, and is not as effective as a fire wall, but it did give the firefighters time to get into a position to head off the flames.
The firefighters entered the unit just ahead of the flames, pulled the ceiling out on the second floor, and used hand-held hoselines to keep the flames from spreading any further.
Battalion Chief Mike Baronavski said it took roughly an hour-and-a-half to get the blaze under control.
Most of the residents got out of their apartments on their own, but one individual did not make it out. As firefighters worked to put out the hot spots, a firefighter found a body in Apartment 2, on the first floor.
The victim is described as a 39-year-old male, and is believed to be the son of an elderly male in Apartment 2.
At the time of this release, the victim's identity had not been confirmed. The body will be taken to the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's office, where his identity and exact cause of death will be confirmed. Eyewitnesses said the elderly male made it safely out of his apartment in his wheel chair. He is reportedly in poor health, and a few hours after the fire had been extinguished, was transported to Erlanger Hospital for treatment. No other fire-related injuries were reported.
Chief Baronavski said three units were destroyed by the fire, and a fourth unit had relatively minor structural damage. A few other units had minor smoke damage. The dollar loss was estimated at around $400,000. As a safety precaution, electrical service was shut off to six units.
The American Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the families displaced by the fire, including those forced out by the fire and power outage. Management representative with Montclaire Apartments said they would house some of the victims in a few vacant apartment units.
The Red Cross made arrangements for the others to stay in nearby motel rooms.
Fire investigators are trying to determine the cause and origin of the fire. The Chattanooga Police Department's Major Crimes Division is also investigating the incident, which is standard protocol when fatalities are involved.
If confirmed by the Medical Examiner's office, this will be the first fire-related fatality of the year in Chattanooga.
Chattanooga Police and Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue also provided valuable assistance on the scene.
Look for additional updates when new information becomes available.