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Chattanooga firefighters responded to a two-alarm apartment fire at Hidden Creek Apartments at 7710 E. Brainerd Road Thursday night. Photo by Bruce Garner

Chattanooga firefighters battled a large apartment fire last night at the Hidden Creek Apartments on East Brainerd Road.

An off-duty Chattanooga firefighter captured a baby after it was dropped from the third floor by the mother, according to Bruce Garner, fire department spokesman.

The firefighter was identified as Lieutenant Vernon Lane, with Ladder 1 at Station 1. Lane also lived in that apartment building and when fire broke out, he got out and spotted the mother and her 10-month-old baby boy on a third floor balcony, Garner said.

Lane said the woman dropped the baby toward him, and he managed to catch it, dropping to the ground to help break the fall. But before Lane could get back up, the woman landed on top of both of them, Garner said. The woman and baby were taken to a hospital.

The condition of the mother and child is still being assessed by medical personnel, but none of their injuries are thought to be life-threatening, Garner said. They have not been identified.

More than a dozen families were displaced, officials said.

The two-alarm fire spread quickly through the buildings on scene after the call came in around 10:30 p.m. and firefighters were forced to pull out of the building.

"The building is too far gone for the firefighters to be inside," Garner said at about 11:45 p.m. "It's way too dangerous for them to do that, so they're attempting to surround the fire, put it out and keep it from spreading."

About 12 fire companies responded to the scene. The fire was beginning to get under control by midnight.

An estimate on the dollar loss was not available, but the damage was extensive and a number of apartment units were totally destroyed, authorities said.

Jamie Lewis, disaster program manager with the Red Cross, said a shelter was being set up at the East Brainerd Church of Christ, located across the street from the apartment complex. Lewis said most of the families are expected to stay with family or friends, but he said three or four families may use the shelter for a day or two.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.