Investigators: Child's curiosity + grownup's carelessness = fire - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Investigators: Child's curiosity + grownup's carelessness = fires

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Four-year-old Jovan looks up to his brother, Reginald Elder III, figuratively and literally.

At age 6, Reginald gets the top bunk in the upstairs bedroom they share in their mother's apartment in Chattanooga's East Lake Courts housing project.

But none of them could spend Wednesday or Thursday night there, after what occurred about 7:30 Wednesday evening.

"My six-year-old son set the bed on fire," Brittany Readus says.

"I wasn't supposed to be playing with it," Reginald says softly.

"I believe he was playing with a cigarette lighter," his mother explains. "It fell out of some clothes, and he picked it up and started playing with it, and the bed skirt started burning."

"I was scared," Reginald says.

But he was calm enough to get Jovan and run to their mother, who got both boys out and called 911.

"The fire itself wasn't much to put out," says Bruce Garner, public information officer for the Chattanooga Fire Department.

The Housing Authority's maintenance crew tells Eyewitness News that the damage is less than the $5500 first estimated; mostly interior repainting and cleanup.

Unfortunately, the fix may not be as simple or quick for seven people who live in the four-plex at 1207 Duncan Avenue.

"A man in a ground floor apartment heated up some grease on the stove, and then he fell asleep," Garner says.

"He woke up, there was a fire in the kitchen and he had to get out."

Everybody was still out, when Eyewitness News viewed the scene, just after noon Thursday.

"They had to turn off the power to the other units of the building," Garner says."The power will remain off until inspectors determine that the wiring is safe"

What firefighters find equally troubling; neither home had a working smoke detector.

"Everybody's okay, this time," Garner says. "But we'd much prefer they have working smoke detectors. They greatly increase your chances of surviving a fire." 

Back at East Lake Courts, Brittany Readus is grateful, but uneasy.

"He (Reginald) knows he shouldn't play with things like that, but I guess he was still curious and did it anyway," she says.

She, and Chattanooga firefighters, treated Wednesday's incident as a teaching moment.

But the afternoon afterward, our crew couldn't help but ask both boys whether they'd ever play with lighters again.

Same answers; no hesitation.

"Nope." 
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