published Friday, November 29th, 2013

Man charged in fatal Thanksgiving Day Red Bank blaze

Police say arson is to blame for an early morning Thanksgiving Day fire that left one man dead and several families homeless.

Red Bank firefighters responded to a call about 5 a.m. at a home on Hedgewood Drive, just off Dayton Boulevard's No. 2 stoplight. There, they found the home engulfed, with flames overtaking a front window, front door and rear side of the home, said Hamilton County Emergency Services spokeswoman Amy Maxwell in a news release.

The fire was so intense that Red Bank requested aid from five other fire companies. The two-story white house is broken up into four apartments. Once firefighters learned that one person was trapped inside, they made their way to an upstairs apartment, Maxwell said.

"Once they found the victim, it was too late," she said.

Police identified the victim as Dewey Lee Rose, 51, a resident of the apartment building.

Two people were injured during the fire after jumping out of windows to flee the blaze.

Red Bank Police Chief Tim Christol said the fire was caused by arson. Officers arrested Christopher Wehunt, 33, of 133 Goodson Ave. in Red Bank, on one count each of criminal homicide, aggravated arson, felony reckless endangerment, felony vandalism, and two counts of reckless aggravated assault. Wehunt was booked into the Hamilton County Jail under a bond of $750,000.

The American Red Cross said more home cooking fires happen on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. But it appears that the arson and two other house fires on Thursday all had nothing to do with turkey day.

Less than a half-mile from the Hedgewood Drive blaze, fire crews put out an attic fire on Miller Avenue. That blaze was easily contained, taking firefighters about 20 minutes to extinguish. That fire took place just down the road and just before the major fire on Hedgewood Drive, though police have said the two blazes are not related.

Both homes are considered total losses, and the American Red Cross was dispatched to aid all five families displaced.

Also Thursday morning, Catoosa County fire crews responded to a residential fire near Rossville. Dispatchers couldn't provide many details, though they said the home was unoccupied and no one was injured.

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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