Quick reactions likely save lives in Sunday morning fire

By: Nick Bona Email
By: Nick Bona Email

KNOXVILLE (WVLT) - One dozen families became temporarily homeless early Sunday morning when flames tore through a South Knoxville apartment complex.

Fire crews still aren't sure what caused the fire at Spanish Trace on Davenport Road, but it seems quick reactions were what saved the residents' lives.

Volunteer View captured flames shooting through a top floor apartment just after it began at 12:30 AM.

"The windows started popping and the fire started traveling," said Vanessa Truitt who was asleep when her cousin woke her up. "We just ran out and called the fire department."

Within 90 seconds of that call, the first fire trucks pull up to Spanish Trace.

"When they arrived, crews found heavy fire involvement in the third floor of one of the buildings in the complex," said Brent Seymour of the Knoxville Fire Department.

Through the smoke billowing from building D, fire fighters spotted a man still inside, and rescued him using a truck's ladder.

"He was conscience, alert and able to tell us a little bit about the fire prior to him being transported to the hospital by EMS," Seymour said.

The two alarm fire was extinguished within 30 minutes of starting, but crews still remained on the scene to hunt for hot spots.

When all was said and done, Vanessa and more than two dozen neighbors were without homes due to smoke and water damage.

"I think they're going to help us get a room for a few nights," she said.

By Sunday evening, the local chapter of the Red Cross had placed seven people from three families in a local motel. They also hoped to meet with the other displaced families sometime Monday.

Investigators ended up spending hours at the scene searching for clues. Building maintenance workers said a smoldering couch started the fire, but interviewed witnesses wondered if it was set.

"They were given information from some of the occupants about suspicious persons in the area and maybe a couple of vehicles," said Seymour.

The investigation was still considered in its early stages on Sunday night.

According to officials, no fire fighters were hurt during the fire and even though a handful of people had to be treated for smoke inhalation, there were no significant injuries.

"It could have been much worse," Seymour said. "In a building like this, there's a high chance for a loss of life when its occupied in the middle of the night."

Flames destroyed Vanessa's home, burned up her medication and sent her cousin to the hospital with breathing problems, but hours after the fire started, she could see the bigger picture.

"I just thank God for my life," she said. "You can replace material things, but you can't replace your life."

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