A number of families are homeless after fire ripped through their apartment building this morning. The fire started around 9:30 a.m. at the Villas at Oak Crest on Lee Highway. Two firefighters from Cleveland, Tennessee were among the first on the scene. They were reportedly driving by on Lee Highway when they noticed smoke coming from behind the apartment building. When they went to investigate, they discovered that one of the units was on fire. The firefighters knocked on doors to alert the residents, and in the process, saved a few pets. Other residents joined in on alerting residents in the building.
The Chattanooga Fire Department received the alarm at 9:39 a.m. and responded with six fire companies. Captain Ken Moses with Quint 8 said he could see a huge plume of smoke on the way to the scene, and called for a second alarm response, which brought in an additional six fire companies. Once on the scene, the firefighters worked quickly to make sure everyone was out of the building, and then efforts began on attacking the fire. Some firefighters used hand-held hoselines, while others set up their aerials and used master streams on the blaze. The flames were very intense and were working their way across the attic and roof. Battalion Chief Mike Knox, the incident commander, ordered the firefighters to make a "trench cut" in the roof (see photos), which enabled them to head off the flames and save a number of undamaged units. No injuries were reported, and Chattanooga firefighters managed to save several pets along the way.
A third alarm was requested briefly, but most of those companies were canceled moments later. Chief Knox said firefighters from 14 fire companies got the blaze under control in about 30 minutes. A total of 12 apartment units were destroyed or had substantial damage from the fire. An additional three or four units had smoke and water damage. The Red Cross responded to the scene with several volunteers to provide assistance to the victims. Most of the victims did not have renter's insurance.
The cause of the fire is undetermined and under investigation. Chattanooga Police, Hamilton County EMS and Chattanooga-Hamilton County Rescue also provided assistance on the scene.