Macon County Chronicle

Three Fires Last Week

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With cold temperatures settling in for the winter season, people need to be extra careful about heating their homes. Lafayette Fire Chief Keith Scruggs and RBS Fire Chief Randy Hagan talked to the Macon County Chronicle last week about the fires and taking precautions, including the importance of having an operating smoke detector.

A call came in at 3:15 a.m. early Wednesday morning, November 19, that the home of Wickie Knight, in Lafayette, was on fire. The residence is located at 417 Wick Lane, off the Union Camp Road.

According to Chief Keith Scruggs, the basement home of Wickie Knight was fully involved upon the fire department’s arrival and there were 11 individuals that were using this as a dwelling. “There were five adults and six children at the residence,” said the Chief. “Fortunately there was a working smoke detector that woke Mr. Knight up and he diligently got everybody out of the 38x48 structure, that had only one exit, before it was totally consumed by the flames.”

Chief Scruggs says that some of his first arriving firefighters said the dwelling was on fire practically all over and it was a blessing that Mr. Knight heard the smoke detector and was able to get everyone to safety. “There is no doubt in my mind that a $10 smoke detector saved eleven lives that night.” 

There were several firemen that reported to the scene of the fire and they utilized Engine #2, Tanker #22, Tanker #29, and Truck #5.

“Unfortunately, at this time of the year with the holidays approaching, they got out with only the clothes on their backs,” Chief Scruggs sadly remarked. “They lost personal property that was in and around the dwelling, as well as some vehicles and other items that were destroyed by the fire.”

The Chief said that it’s really sad around the holiday season to be standing in the yard with everything you own laying in a pile of ashes. “ However, I think the community is stepping up and making donations. There are several avenues that you can contact to help out, including Macon Helps and Debbie Knight who runs a flea market in Coleytown, for example. We also contacted the American Red Cross, who came in and helped the family.”

“I have also been notified that you can donate clothes at various locations to help this family get through the holidays and hopefully get back to normal living before too long,” noted Scruggs.

“Of course, I want to remind everyone whether you have electric heat, wood stove heat, gas heat or whatever, you have to take precautions if you want to protect your family and your home from a devastating fire during the cold winter months,” he continued. “These are all different situations, but I don’t care what type of heat you have, you really need a smoke detector in your home. It bothers me to no end that someone would go to sleep in Macon County and not have a smoke detector.”

Scruggs stated that they have a limited supply of smoke detectors at the Lafayette Fire Department that were available thru a grant from the State of Tennessee. “If you don’t have a smoke detector in your home, or one that isn’t operating properly because it is old, give us a call here at the fire station, 666-2190 and we will be glad to help you out while the supply lasts. Please folks, if you don’t have a detector in your home, go and buy one and if you can’t afford it, just call us and we will get you one somehow.”

“I would also like to add, that according to Mr. Knight, some of the children had recently attended the Fire Prevention class taught at the local schools by Fire Protection Officer Don Stevens and had urged Wickie to change the batteries in the detector and he did. This small act saved their lives.”

Fire broke out on Monday, November 17, at the 314 Russel Road residence in Red Boiling Springs, after the homeowner had reported the pipes from a wood-burning stove were extremely red. “Upon arrival, we found flames inside the 800 square foot wood frame structure, in the attic area and coming through the roof around the chimney,” said Red Boiling Springs Fire Chief Randy Hagan. “After gaining access, the fire was extinguished, but the home sustained heavy damage estimated at $35,000.”

“Then on Tuesday night, November 18, we answered another fire call involving a wood burning stove, this time at the 1200 square foot wood frame home of Phyllis Copass, located at 994 North Springs Road in Red Boiling Springs,” said Chief Hagan. “When we arrived at the scene of the working structure fire, we discovered flames burning through the corner of the front wall of the residence, spreading into the other rooms and the attic area of the dwelling.”

The RBS firefighters attacked the blaze with two 1 1/2 lines, and soon extinguished the fire. “The fire apparently started behind a wood burning stove,” said Chief Hagan. “The home was destroyed with a estimated property value of $28,000.  

“I urge people to be extremely cautious with wood burning stoves,” said Chief Hagan, “and never under estimate just how hot the pipes can get inside your home. Once a fire ignites, flames will likely spread quickly to the attic area, which happened in these two fires last week. From there the flames usually burn through the roof surrounding the chimney.”
The Chief said that you need to constantly check your pipes from the stove to the flue and make sure the flue is cleaned out. When you build a fire don’t leave the stove unattended.

“Like Chief Scruggs said, every home needs a smoke detector, and if you are on a fixed income and can’t afford a detector, we have a few here at the Red Boiling Springs Fire Department that we can put in for free, if you will give us a call 699-2011.