Inspector: Firewall, firefighters 'did their job' to save Mountain Creek apartment building
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Two alarms. A dozen fire companies fighting more than two hours. Even cutting roof trenches.
"It was a little bit frightening," resident Kavitha Chukka says. "But they helped us to come out quickly. Everybody is safe, even the pets are safe. We are thankful for that."
Chukka, her husband, and sons Joel, 4, and Joshua, 1, would stay with friends and family after fire heavily damaged their apartment and five others at the Mountain Creek Apartments Monday afternoon.
Tuesday morning, she would wait anxiously, as contractors secured the building with a fence, while fire investigators and code inspectors determined whether the building was safe to re-enter.
"Furniture, laptop computer, bedrooms, they're totally damaged," she says. "Whatever we could collect within a couple of minutes, we just dragged up and come out yesterday."
The walk-through ends fairly quickly.
Building inspector Dallas Rucker offers reasons to be optimistic.
"The building is 40 years old, but the firewall did its job," he says. "Firefighters did their job. Those units that didn't suffer direct damage, we have released to turn the power back on so that they can be re-occupied."
It means more than two dozen renters could return within hours.
Only ten people, including the Chukka family, would have to move. Mountain Creek's management company, Hawthorne Residential Partners, worked to place the displaced in other complexes it oversees.
Shannon Tanner, 21, will be able to stay in the complex. But her unit won't be ready for a couple of weeks.
"All of my clothes will have to be washed," she says. "You can smell the smoke."
Her mother, Renee, is relieved that smoke damage is the only loss suffered.
"Renter's insurance," she asks. "Forgot to get it! I will have it today. We already know, with the new apartment she's going to, we'll have it today."
Chukka can empathize.
"That's a foolish thing we did, not getting it (renter's insurance)," she says. "These things will be hard to replace."
Investigators believe the cause is accidental, CFD Public Information Officer Bruce Garner says.
"A cigarette, smoldering on a balcony," Garner says. "There won't be any charges."
Chukka knows the neighbor at fault. He works with her husband.
"He's very upset and he feels very sorry about that," she says. "Everybody has to be very careful. Just because of his negligence, everybody is suffering."