published Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Fire at Mountain Creek Apartments in Chattanooga displaces several families

Lt. James McKnight holds an oxygen mask on Luna, as her owner, Rachel Head, watches Tuesday at Mountain Creek Apartments. Firefighters rescued the cat, who was suffering from smoke inhalation and gave her oxygen and water.
Lt. James McKnight holds an oxygen mask on Luna, as her owner, Rachel Head, watches Tuesday at Mountain Creek Apartments. Firefighters rescued the cat, who was suffering from smoke inhalation and gave her oxygen and water.
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    Chattanooga firefighters work to extinguish a fire Tuesday at Mountain Creek Apartments. Eight fire companies responded to the fire and contained it to one end of the apartment building according to spokesperson Bruce Garner.
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A Tuesday afternoon fire at the Mountain Creek Apartments complex displaced several families, but no lives were lost.

The Chattanooga Fire Department received a report of a fire around 2:45 p.m. in the P building of the complex at 936 Mountain Creek Road, said Bruce Garner, the department's spokesman. Two units were "fully involved" in fire when firefighters arrived, and flames were beginning to "migrate across" the rest of the building, he said.

Six fire companies initially responded, but two more were called in when firefighters saw the extent of the flames.

"They succeeded in cutting off the fire, and keeping it from spreading to the entire building," Garner said.

He said it took roughly 20 minutes to get the fire under control.

Firefighters searched the building for anyone who might be trapped, but found only a pet cat in one of the units, Garner said. Oxygen was administered through a mask and, although the cat wasn't looking well at first, it was standing on its own legs after receiving oxygen treatment, he said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but investigators think it started on a deck of a ground-floor unit and spread.

Joshua Brown, a chef at Tupelo Honey Cafe, lived in unit 174, where investigators believe the fire started.

Brown said he was at work when he got a call from his girlfriend, who was home with his 2-week-old son when she smelled smoke from the living room. He said that she told him she looked outside and saw a lot of smoke, so she grabbed their son and ran outside.

After that the flames began to rise, Brown said.

They had two cats that were still inside, but firefighters found no sign of them, so they could have escaped, Brown said.

Garner said two units in the building were damaged by fire, and an additional two or three saw "relatively minor" smoke and water damage.

The building has a total of 20 units, and most residents should be able to return to their homes today if EPB can maintain power to the rest of the building, Garner said.

The American Red Cross has been called in to help the displaced families.

Brown said that they had been planning to move on Friday, and for now he'll be staying with a friend in the complex.

From the outside of the building it looks like the fire may have damaged only some items closest to the outer wall of his apartment, and Brown said he'll try to salvage what he can once he's allowed to go inside.

"The Big Man lets crazy things happen in life sometimes, it's a sign even when it's the darkest moments," Brown said. "So, I feel like it'll be OK. I feel like we'll be good."

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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