published Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Tears, smiles fill reunion

CFD senior firefighter Brandon Atkins, right, picks up 2-year-old Antonio Jackson who he rescued from a burning residence on Feb. 12, 2011. Brandon's 10-year old brother Donavan Jarrett, left, looks on.
Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press
CFD senior firefighter Brandon Atkins, right, picks up 2-year-old Antonio Jackson who he rescued from a burning residence on Feb. 12, 2011. Brandon's 10-year old brother Donavan Jarrett, left, looks on. Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Flames began to spread from room to room in the Lincoln Park home, where the reported screams of people inside soon were silenced by the thick smoke.

“You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” said Chattanooga firefighter Michael Battle, reflecting on a Feb. 12 house fire in which he helped pull a woman and two small children from a blazing home.

Following the hose into the home at 70 Maude St., Battle and three other firefighters — Capt. Talley Glover, Lt. Danulius Usher and firefighter Brandon Atkins — pulled 22-year-old Brandy Curry, a 2-year-old boy and 14-month-old girl away from burning house.

Months later, the families returned Thursday to thank the Chattanooga firefighters who saved them.

Antonio Jackson, a curious 2-year-old boy wearing a red plastic firefighter’s hat, sat in his grandmother’s arms Thursday as Atkins said, “It’s nice to meet you.”

It was Atkins who carried an unconscious Antonio and his sister, Destiny, out of the burning house. Antonio returned with his family and baby sitter, Curry, to meet the firefighters who saved their lives.

“I guess all I can say is, ‘Thank you,’” said Curry, who teared up off and on throughout the reunion at Fire Station No. 1 at 218 E. Main St.

Destiny died from smoke inhalation. Curry suffered second- and third-degree burns to much of her body, including most of her left arm.

The fire was ruled accidental, and a cause has not been determined, according to authorities.

All 15 firefighters who responded to the home received letters of commendation, and the four firefighters who pulled the occupants out received Life Saving Award medals.

Curry’s entire left arm is still mottled with burn wounds. Burns also cover her stomach and legs, she said. She was the only one who received burns in the fire.

There isn’t a day when she doesn’t think about the blaze, she said.

“I just thank God that I’m here. It was wonderful meeting the people that saved my life,” she said.

And it’s still hard accepting the loss of her best friend’s child, whom she was watching, she said.

“It’s hard to cope with it, but I know she’s in a better place,” Curry said.

Curry said she doesn’t remember how the fire started. She was unconscious when firefighters found her with the two children in a bedroom. Smoke was escaping from the living room in the front of the home.

“I don’t remember nothing. I just remember waking up in the hospital,” she said.

On Thursday, Battle, who has been firefighter for two years, posed for pictures with the family members. He was wearing a wide smile.

“This is all overwhelming. You never get to see people you actually help. So it means a lot to me,” he said. “It makes me happy what I do, but this takes it to a whole other level. We really do impact people’s lives. I can’t put it into words. That day, we were there for a reason.”

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