Chattanooga family loses everything to fire, but teen saves siblings

Chattanooga family loses everything to fire, but teen saves siblings

November 30th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

A house rented by David Gladden Jr. at 703 Caruthers Road is damaged after a house fire Tuesday.

Photo by Allison Love/Times Free Press.

Kathy Smith was home in her kitchen when she heard a loud boom from the house next door.

"I looked out my patio window and I could see smoke coming out of the house -- it was on fire," she said.

She picked up the phone to call 911, and that's when she noticed the kids trapped on the roof.

The oldest, then-14-year-old Eddie Pitmon, had smashed a second-story window and pulled his brother and sisters out of the burning building onto the roof of the back porch.

Smith ran to their yard, which was full of thick, black smoke.

"You have to jump, you have to jump, this house is going to blow up," she yelled to the teenager.

But Eddie wouldn't jump. He turned back to the window to guide his last sibling to the roof.

"Follow my voice, just follow my voice," he shouted into the dark house.

•••

Sharon Pitmon noticed the ambulances, fire trucks and police cars whizzing by while she was at work at a gas station on Brainerd Road on Tuesday afternoon, but she didn't think much of it.

"I was like, 'Whoa, that's a lot of ambulances," she said Thursday, recounting the events.

Then her cousin ran up and shouted that her house was on fire and four of her kids were stuck on the roof. A fifth child was not home at the time.

"Oh, my God," she said. The man she was ringing up at the register grabbed her hand and started to pray with her. He kept her calm and drove her the short distance home to Caruthers Road -- but when she saw the smoke, ambulances, fire trucks and flames, she thought the worst.

"I was walking across the street and my neighbor just kept saying, 'The kids are OK, the kids are OK,'" Pitmon said.

Eddie was able to lower his 3-, 4- and 6-year-old siblings to police officers and a passer-by before jumping down himself, cutting his leg on a first-story window.

"He was my angel that day," Pitmon said. "He's amazing."

•••

Eddie spent Thursday -- his 15th birthday -- on crutches.

"The hospital did a little cake and stuff for him today," Sharon Pitmon said, adding that the family might celebrate at the cafe next to the hotel the American Red Cross provided for three days.

"He's just happy he could get everyone out," she said. "He told me he wasn't scared."

With all of her kids safe and out of the hospital, Pitmon now is figuring out how to pick up the pieces.

Pastor Kevin Adams at Olivet Baptist Church is helping the family find a place to stay, and they've received some donations of clothes and supplies, she said.

She added she's very thankful for the help the Chattanooga community has donated.

"We lost everything, so we really need everything," she said. "Anything anybody can give is a big help and appreciation."

Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner said the cause of the fire still is under investigation, and the blaze caused about $100,000 in damage to the house, which the family rented.

Smith said she has decided to give the family her old TV, and her co-workers might band together to give them a couch.

"I've never seen anything like that and I hope I never do again -- just look at that house," she said, pointing to the blackened windows and charred walls.

"They were in that. They lost everything, but they're still alive. They're alive."