Smoke detectors probably saved Church Hill couple, chief says

Jeff Bobo • Sep 19, 2018 at 8:30 PM

CHURCH HILL — Fire Chief David Wood believes a smoke detector saved the lives of an elderly couple whose home was gutted by an early morning fire Tuesday.

Now the couple’s neighbors are chipping in to help the pair rebuild their lives with a Gofundme page to accept donations.

At 5:36 a.m., the Church Hill Fire Department responded to the home of Hezekiah and Edna Brown at 214 E. Lane St., where the first responders on the scene reportedly found the house fulled involved.

“Flames were already through the roof”

Wood said he suspects the blaze started as an electrical fire on the back porch.

“The flames were already through the roof, and we made entrance into the residence with hand lines, and made the fire attack,” Wood said. “Most of the fire was in the attic. It started in the back in a screened-in porch, and the house had a metal roof. ... Once it got inside the porch, it went through the soffit and got right up into the attic.”

Wood added, “The metal roof holds it in, and it just got in the attic and went all the way across from one end to the other.”

Although the attic suffered the most damage, there was also significant smoke and water damage where firefighters had to tear out the Sheetrock ceiling to reach the flames.

As a result, much of the couple’s possessions were damaged or destroyed.

Smoke detector saved their lives

Wood said he believes the couple’s smoke detector probably saved their lives.

He said the Browns indicated they probably wouldn’t have awakened in time to escape the fire had it not been for their fire detector. 

“There wasn’t actually any fire in the house, but there was enough smoke in the house to set the detector off,” Wood said. “They were pretty scared. That woman, she was, and he was too. You sit there and watch all your belongings go up.”

The American Red Cross responded to the scene and provided some necessities and temporary lodging until the couple can find another place to stay.

Neighbors chip in to help

Neighbors led by Janet Keener have also been collecting donations for the Browns.

Kenner started a Gofundme page, but she told the Times-News Wednesday that anyone who wants to make a contribution of cash or goods can also call her at (423) 446-0162.

“Everybody in the neighborhood loves them,” Kenner told the Times News Wednesday. “They’re sweet. They have many close friends up in that area. Everybody kind of looks out for each other. It’s extremely sad. She’s got medical issues and their little dog died in the fire. It’s heartbreaking. We’re just trying to do what we can to help.”

Free smoke detectors 

Wood said his department, like most Tennessee fire departments, gives away free smoke detectors, and they will even install them upon request. 

They are state-issued smoke detectors with built-in 10-year batteries.

Any Church Hill residents who would like a free smoke detector should leave their name and number at City Hall, and Wood said he will get back to them.