Woman Dead In East Brainerd Fire; 2 Others Injured Including Firefighter

Friday, June 16, 2017
Fire investigators are trying to determine what started a fire that claimed the life of an elderly woman in East Brainerd on Thursday night.
The fire was spotted at 6:27 p.m. by neighbors across the street.
While his wife called 911, Joe Birchfield ran to the house to alert the elderly couple who lived there. He said the front of the house was engulfed in flames, so he ran around to the back, where he saw the elderly man who lived there using a garden hose in a futile attempt to put the fire out. Two Chattanooga police officers also arrived on the scene and they were informed that the woman who lived there might still be inside. The officers tried to get in the house, but the flames were too intense.  

Chattanooga firefighters arrived moments later and they too tried to enter the house. Captain Skyler Phillips with Quint 21 said the heat and flames were just too intense for the firefighters to get to the woman. One firefighter, dressed in full protective gear, received burns to one of his ears while attempting to get inside. 

The firefighters eventually got the blaze under control, but the damage was extensive. Battalion Chief Rick Boatwright said the firefighters found the victim inside the house. She was pronounced dead on the scene. The woman's husband was transported to a local hospital by Hamilton County EMS.

The Major Crimes Division with the Chattanooga Police Department is assisting with the investigation, which is standard protocol when fatalities are involved. Hamilton County's Marine Rehab also provided assistance on the scene.
Family members said they believe a recliner with a vibrator set the chair and then the house on fire.
Fire officials said late Friday morning, "The investigation continues into last night's fire in the 1200 block of Durham Drive that claimed the life of an elderly woman. The lead fire investigator says the cause of the fire appears to be accidental, but what exactly sparked the deadly blaze remains undetermined.

"The victims's husband, who tried to put the fire out himself, was treated and released from a local hospital Thursday night for some burns to his head, arms and hands. The names of the two victims are still being withheld until all next-of-kin have been located and notified."

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