Fire In Hixson Leaves 4 Families Homeless

Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Captain Rick Phillips (left) and Lt. Henry McElvain, a fire investigator, survey the damage at 1282 Leaside Lane.
Captain Rick Phillips (left) and Lt. Henry McElvain, a fire investigator, survey the damage at 1282 Leaside Lane.

A gas-fed fire caused considerable damage to four townhomes in Hixson early Wednesday morning. It started around 3:30 a.m. at 1282 Leaside Lane. 

James Gonser said he woke to the sound of popping noises and got up to investigate. He said he went downstairs and saw flames climbing up the walls in the utility room. His 19-year-old son, who was sleeping downstairs, had already made it out of the house safely.

Mr. Gonser alerted his wife, who promptly got their other two children, ages four and eight, safely out of the house. Mr. Gonser said he got a portable fire extinguisher and tried to put out the fire, but he couldn't breathe in the thick smoke and had to get out. Mr. Gonser suffered a little from smoke inhalation and was checked out by paramedics with Hamilton County EMS.

Moments later, the Chattanooga Fire Department was notified and responded with six fire companies. Battalion Chief Rick Sewell said the whole back-side of the townhome was engulfed in flames when the first firefighters arrived. With the fire already spreading to adjacent townhome units, Chief Sewell called for two additional fire companies. The residents in the three adjacent units all got out without injury.

Chief Sewell said the fire was being fed by a ruptured gas line, and they could not find a cut-off valve. Though the gas leak made fighting the fire more difficult, the firefighters eventually got the blaze under control. Three of the four townhomes involved had extensive fire damage. An estimate on the dollar loss was not available. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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