Dalton victim disabled; died after clothing caught fire - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Firefighters: Dalton victim was disabled, died trying to extinguish flames

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DALTON, GA (WRCB) --  "We realized the fire wasn't in hers, but the fire had consumed most of the oxygen,"  Assistant Fire Chief Gary Baggett says.

"It was just smoldering."

Maybe for as long as an hour.

"It had burned through the floor near the wall that separates the units,"Baggett says. "One firefighter even slipped through it, into the crawl space. But he'll be okay.

Firefighters would find the body of the unit owner, a man in his seventies , in the kitchen, his walker beside him. 

Investigators aren't releasing his name until they're certain family has been notified.

"It's likely he died of smoke inhalation," Baggett says. "We've sent the body for autopsy."

"Exactly what started the fire, we're not sure."

Investigators are certain that the fire began in the victim's bed, which had been moved into the living room downstairs in the two-story townhouse unit.

"We know he suffered from a number of health problems, from hip issues to seizures," Baggett says.

A son had moved in recently, to help care for him. "He'd called his father about 1:30, and told us his father had asked him to pick up some groceries," Baggett says.

"We knew for sure that fire was in his bed."

Investigators have not determined whether it started from careless smoking, or from a lamp that had overheated.

"I'd heard that it had caught his clothing on fire," says Judy Lewis, who heard the sirens and asked her husband to investigate.

"He was found near the sink," Baggett confirms. "His clothing was burned."

Damage to the victim's condo, and the unit adjoining is extensive.

"There aren't true firewalls separating the units," Baggett says. "Smoke and heat did escape into the attics."

Tuesday afternoon, Stone's unit, and others in the same building, got the once-over from a remodeling firm that specializes in repairing fire and smoke damage.

"As far we can tell, there's no actual structural damage," Stone says. "There's just that odor."

"I was praying the damage was confined," says Lewis, who is wheelchair-bound.

 "I was wondering how I might get out of my own building, if something happened while my husband were at work."

Lewis, and a number of her neighbors, barely knew the man who died in #1523.

"I can't get out much, and he couldn't either," she says. "But my heart goes out to him and to his son." 

"I'm praying for the Lord to comfort and strengthen them through this." 


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