R.B. Montgomery was watching "Good Morning America" in his first-floor home at Boynton Terrace Apartments when firefighters knocked on his door and told him to get out.
Many of the residents were told to evacuate because of the thick smoke, he said about 9:30 a.m. while waiting to go back inside.
Firefighters worked quickly Tuesday to contain a fire reported just before 8 a.m. on the ground floor of 959 Boynton Drive, Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner said.
Medics with Hamilton County Emergency Medical Services treated two people on the scene - one for minor smoke inhalation and the other for a pre-existing medical condition.
Construction workers were in the process of renovating some apartment units on the ground floor and were using cutting torches to remove the old flooring when one of the workers said he accidentally ignited some foam rubber used to seal in the wall heating units, according to a fire department news release.
One worker ran to get a bucket of water, but by the time he returned, the fire had grown much larger and the water he threw on the flames had no effect, according to the release.
Co-workers then tried using portable fire extinguishers, but also were unsuccessful in putting out the fire.
Someone called 911 and the Chattanooga Fire Department initially responded with six fire companies.
When the first firefighters reported fire coming from a ground-floor window, Battalion Chief Rodney Jones called for a second alarm response as a precaution, Garner said, but the first arriving firefighters managed to contain the blaze.
The first two floors in the eight-story building were evacuated by emergency personnel, while others in the floors above evacuated on their own.
About 84 people live in the high-rise, according to an official with Boynton Terrace.
About 9:30 a.m., Gwen Davis was told she could return to her second-floor apartment but was waiting with her other neighbors in the entrance of the building. She said she was keeping a neighbor company who couldn't go back to her apartment.