A Chattanooga Times Free Press newspaper carrier delivering papers early Tuesday morning was the first to spot and alert authorities of a blaze that broke out at a commercial garage in Birchwood.
Around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, Mike Haddock was working his paper route when he turned onto Grasshopper Road and saw what he thought looked like fog down the road, he said.
"I knew it couldn't possibly be fog. I started slowing down and was hit by the smell of burning rubber," Haddock said.
He turned down the road and saw flickering lights above a fence near a large car garage.
Haddock first checked to make sure there were no people in the garage, then pounded on the door of the owner's nearby house. When no one answered, he called Hamilton County Emergency Services. By that time, he said, about 10 cars were on fire.
Haddock said he then rang the home's doorbell until the homeowner finally woke up.
No injuries were reported, according to Hamilton County Emergency Services spokeswoman Amy Maxwell, but about 10 cars were damaged in the blaze - including vehicles the garage owner said belonged to his customers.
Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department personnel were able to stop the fire from spreading to other vehicles, Maxwell said. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office will be investigating the fire, she said.
Haddock, who said he has been a carrier with the newspaper for more than 10 years, said that in the early morning hours he has had to herd escaped longhorn cattle and horses back into their pastures, but he's never had to wake anyone up for an emergency.
Once fire crews showed up, Haddock said, he left to finish his route.
"I had papers that needed to get delivered," he said.