published Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Smoke alarm saves sleeping couple from house fire in East Brainerd

The burned shell is all that remains of Sonny and Judy Gilreath's home on Skyline Drive. A smoke alarm alerted the Gilreaths to the blaze, which started around 2:30 on Monday morning, and they escaped the house.
The burned shell is all that remains of Sonny and Judy Gilreath's home on Skyline Drive. A smoke alarm alerted the Gilreaths to the blaze, which started around 2:30 on Monday morning, and they escaped the house.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

Chattanooga firefighters say smoke alarms saved the lives of an East Brainerd couple when a fire consumed their home early Monday morning.

Linton and Judy Gilreath told firefighters they were asleep at 1825 Skyline Drive when a smoke alarm at the other end of the house activated. The couple got up to investigate, and when they discovered the house was on fire, they immediately got out and called 911.

Firefighters arrived about 3 a.m. to find flames shooting through the roof, fire department spokesman Bruce Garner said. The blaze had spread through into the attic, then rapidly spread across the top of the house, he said.

The firefighters were ordered out of the house for their own safety, Garner said.

Moments later, the home was rocked by an explosion. Firefighters do not know what caused the blast, but it could have been the result of a backdraft -- the explosion of heated gases that occurs when oxygen is reintroduced within a burning building where the oxygen has been depleted by the fire.

Volunteers with the American Red Cross were called in to provide assistance to the couple.

The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, Garner said.

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