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Fire Victim: "Thank God we all made it out"

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EAST RIDGE, TN. (WRCB)  --  An East Ridge mother is shaken after narrowly escaping her burning home.  Erica Worthington was able to get her two young children out of the house on Anderson Avenue, but just barely.

Channel 3 was on the scene Saturday as firefighters battled the blaze.  Worthington says she heard her 2-year-old daughter, Alexis, call her name one time.

The mother followed her voice to the bedroom, and both made it out again in the nick of time.

From the moment 25-year-old, Erica Worthington, woke up from an afternoon nap to find her East Ridge home in flames, she had only one thing in mind.

"That's the only thing I was worried about," Worthington says.  "I was thinking about my two daughters, and getting them out of the house."

The mom immediately grabbed her 4-year-old and rushed her outside to safety.  Then Worthington turned to her boyfriend looking for her 2-year-old daughter, Alexis.

"I yelled her name," she says.  "I said, 'Alexis!", and she called back one time."

Worthington realized the child's voice was coming from inside.  She says that's when her motherly instinct took over.

"I couldn't see where she was," Worthington says.  "I followed her voice, picked her up, and ran out the back door." 

The mother found her daughter on the same bed where she had been sleeping.

"She must have crawled up in the bed with me," she says. 

Now safely outside, mother and daughter came back around the front of the house just in time to watch their awning collapse.

"Flames, that's all we saw," Worthington says.  "There were flames everywhere."

Soon after the East Ridge Fire Department arrived, but by then it was to late to save the home.

"It's a tragedy," Worthington says.  "It's unexpected, and I'm devastated." 

Worthington rents the house on Anderson Avenue, and has lived there for less than a year. She lost everything in the fire.  Crews estimate damage around $75,000.  While the mother isn't sure what she'll do now, she says she's just glad her family is safe.

The Chattanooga Red Cross Chapter is assisting the family.  Worthington didn't have renter's insurance.

So far East Ridge arson investigators haven't given any indication as to how the fire started. They say they're working to determine what happened, and the fire is still under investigation.

Worthington says she is in an on going dispute with her landlord over smoke detectors.  She claims there were no smoke detectors in the home when she moved in last October.

The City of East Ridge does have an ordinance requiring homeowners of rental properties to provide smoke detectors to its tenants.

Public Information Officer, Erik Hopkins, says investigators are looking into whether or not Worthington's claim is true.  If so, her landlord could be cited to court.

Channel 3 spoke with Worthington's landlord Sunday.  He says he did install three smoke detectors in the home, and he has the receipts to prove it.

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