Injured Firefighters Describe Their Ordeal In House Fire On Oct. 7

Friday, October 18, 2013
Senior Firefighter Dan Peterson (left) holds up his charred face mask to show how hot it got inside the house. Firefighter Chad Williams is on the right.
Senior Firefighter Dan Peterson (left) holds up his charred face mask to show how hot it got inside the house. Firefighter Chad Williams is on the right.
- photo by Bruce Garner

Two of the three Chattanooga firefighters who were injured in a structure fire on Oct 7, spoke with reporters on Friday at Fire Station 7 about their experience. With burns clearly visible on their necks and ears, and their hands and arms covered in bandages, they described what happened that day. 

Senior firefighter Dan Peterson and Firefighter Chad Williams were with more than a dozen firefighters who responded to the fire at 2814 4th Ave., but they were among the first to go in. As they searched the house for victims, they made their way toward the rear of the structure. The thick, black smoke reduced the visibility to zero. When they entered a hallway in the back of the house, Mr. Peterson said it “got real hot, real fast.” Mr. Williams said he knew he was in trouble when his hands and arms began stinging intensely from the extreme heat. They decided to back out as quickly as they could, assisted by other firefighters who had entered the building.

Mr. Peterson said he didn’t know just how hot it got in the house until he made it outside and saw his equipment. The face shield on his helmet had melted. Despite their injuries, both firefighters said they still loved their jobs and expressed gratitude for all the support they have received from the fire department, their families, friends, fellow firefighters and other emergency responders. They will be off duty for weeks to recover from their burns, making regular visits to the burn clinic at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville for additional treatment.

A third firefighter, Captain Dean Rogers, who was right behind Mr. Williams and Mr. Peterson, was also burned, though not quite as severely as the other two. Mr. Rogers, and senior firefighter Kyle Duggan, were just named Firefighter of the Year by the Chattanooga Hamilton Place Rotary Club at the annual Fire Prevention Week kick-off ceremony less than two hours earlier that morning. 

Mr. Rogers and Mr. Duggan were recognized for their efforts to save two children in a deadly house fire at 2014 Rawlings Street on April 1. They forced their way into the burning home, and despite extreme risk to their own safety, searched for and found two children inside. One of the children died from injuries sustained in the blaze, but the other survived, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of these two firefighters. Mr. Rogers told fellow firefighters on the phone that he is recovering well, but could not attend Friday’s media event because he was out of town.

At the fire on 4th Avenue on Oct. 7, no one was found in the house and the firefighters were the only ones who were injured. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

The burned and melted fire helmet used by Senior Firefighter Dan Peterson
The burned and melted fire helmet used by Senior Firefighter Dan Peterson
- Photo2 by Bruce Garner

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