Apartment damaged in fire on Fifth Street

Apartment damaged in fire on Fifth Street

June 15th, 2011 by Andy Johns in News

Firefighters from the Chattanooga Fire Department battle a blaze at Brabson Hill, an apartment building located at 510 E. Fifth St.

Photo by Tracey Trumbull/Times Free Press.

No one was injured in an apartment building fire on East Fifth Street on Tuesday morning, but one firefighter was a nose away from a close call.

As firefighters stormed up through the attic on the third floor of the Brabson Hill building, the protective face shield on one of the firefighter's helmets melted.

"That doesn't happen very often," said Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner.

The shields are made to withstand 1,300-degree heat.

"The equipment did the job and protected him," Garner said.

The building did not fare quite as well, though crews were able to limit most damage from the fire, which started just after 9 a.m., to the roof, attic and rooftop deck. Garner said one of the six apartment units inside might have some smoke and water damage.

Apartment resident Mario Piccolo said he smelled something unusual earlier that morning as he watered his flowers on the roof deck. Later, he said he saw a lot of smoke coming from the roof and hurried to get out.

"I was more scared once I got down here and realized what was going on," he said.

Large, dark plumes of smoke could be seen from several vantage points downtown and as far away as Interstate 24.

Jack McDonald, who lives nearby and who also owns property in the area, said it was a frightening, smoky scene.

"I looked up and [smoke] was just billowing out," he said.

Sara Terlecki was on the bottom floor, packing her lunch to take to work, when city workers repairing a nearby sidewalk knocked on the windows to tell her to get out of the building. She made it out unharmed, but was anxious to get back in to see if any of her property had been damaged. She was optimistic because most of it already was boxed up for a move when her lease is up in the next few weeks.

"Wait and see, that's all we can do," Terlecki said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.