World War II veteran Thomas Carlton celebrated the country's birthday Wednesday, but pardon him if he did a little personal celebrating, too.
Thanks to his security system and the Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department, the 89-year-old Bronze Star recipient spent the day comfortably in his Soddy-Daisy home, which was only minimally damaged by a fire in his kitchen two weeks ago.
"If it hadn't been for the ... alarm," Carlton said, "I don't know what would've happened."
On Tuesday, the retired construction worker and onetime German prisoner of war got a chance to thank ADT dispatcher Theodore "T.J." Jones -- who flew in from Jacksonville, Fla. -- and several members of the fire department.
"I say they're the best in the world," Carlton said. "They were all on the ball."
The widower said he was startled at the rear of his house on that Wednesday morning when he heard his security system siren sound and his smoke detector squeal.
By the time Carlton entered his kitchen, toxic black smoke had filled the room. For reasons unclear to him, the self-cleaning mechanism on his oven engaged and began to heat the pots and pans he stored inside it.
"I thought maybe the house was on fire," he said.
At the same time, Carlton's phone was ringing. On the other end, Jones, who normally does technical support for the security company but was filling in as a dispatcher, was responding to the alarm.
"I just instructed him that I would attempt to cut off the alarm," he said, "that he needed to get out of the house and that I was going to call for help."
Carlton said he followed the dispatcher's instructions and cleared out of the house.
Less than nine minutes after the alarm first sounded, the fire department arrived, unplugged and removed the stove from the house and got the situation in control.
Jean Rothfolk, Carlton's daughter, said her parents had a security system when her mother, who had Alzheimer's disease and a tendency to wander, was alive. After her mother died 41/2 years ago, she said her father had it disconnected.
However, at the urging of her and her siblings, he had the system re-engaged two years ago.
"I ain't going to get rid of it now," Carlton said.
Rothfolk credited the Dallas Bay Fire Department for minimizing the damage by removing the stove.
"That's the reason he didn't have so much smoke in the house," she said. "They immediately opened up the doors."
Carlton, who has five children, 13 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren, only had to be out of his home for two days. Since the fire, his stove, pots and pans have been replaced. His curtains and clothes have been cleaned. And his floor is to be redone later this week.
Rothfolk said her father, a Dayton Mountain native who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is aware things could have been much worse.
"He feels very fortunate they all reacted so quickly," she said.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...