East Ridge Firefighters responded to the Cliff Dwellers Apartment complex at 712 Summit Ave. at 12:23 pm on Monday, January 20, 2003. The first fire officer arrived in four minutes at 12:27 pm and the first engine arrived in six minutes at 12:29 pm and reported heavy fire showing in the front and rear of the center of the building and spreading fast in both directions.
East Ridge Fire Chief Eddie Phillips requested a second alarm bringing mutual aid units from Ft. Oglethorpe, Catoosa County, Rossville, Tri-Community, Walker County, Hamilton County Rescue and Memorial Hospital EMS. Counting East Ridge units firefighters used seven (7) engines, two (2) ladders, two (2) squads and two (2) air trucks. The cause of the fire is under investigation by East Ridge fire investigators. The fire appears to have started in or near apartment number 4 which sustained the heaviest damage and a total collapse of the three story apartment.
Damage estimates are approximately $750,000 Six (6) apartments received heavy fire or water/smoke damage and two (2) apartments received lighter smoke damage. The American Red Cross responded to find shelter and clothing for the displaced residents.
Chief Phillips praised the quick action of firefighters in preventing the fire from spreading even further by using large caliber hose lines, portable deluge guns, and ladder pipes.. He also praised the mutual aid system in which neighboring fire departments work together as one team during major events.