Chattanooga firefighters face several challenges with Patten Tow - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chattanooga firefighters face several challenges with Patten Towers fire

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Chattanooga firefighters say they faced several challenges fighting the fire at Patten Towers and making sure all the residents got out safely.

Firefighters say they get a variety of calls to Patten Towers but say when they realized it was a true fire call, they knew they had a potentially serious situation on their hands.

Firefighters had to navigate 11 floors, going room to room to make sure no one was left behind.

"You may get a lot of calls there that aren't very exciting. It could be false alarms or just burnt toast, things like that. And then every now and then you get these real deals," says Bruce Garner with the Chattanooga Fire Department.

A total of six Chattanooga fire companies descended on Patten Towers Tuesday night with the two major challenges of finding the fire and getting close to 250 people out.

"The difficulty initially was locating the actual fire," says Garner.

Thick smoke from burning rubber and electrical wire created as challenge as firefighters fought the flames.

"You couldn't put water on the fire because the lines were energized," he says.

It knocked power out to portions of the building and rescue workers faced the physically grueling work of getting everyone out safely.

"The power was out to the elevators so they had to carry many of the residents."

Many of the people living there have special needs.

"It takes more to get them to evacuate to begin with," says Garner.

The building itself dates back to the early 1900s. It once was the glamorous 'Patten Hotel.' It now houses lower income apartments managed by 'PK Management' based in Greenville, South Carolina.

"I can't talk. I really can't," said Gail Griffin, manager of Patten Towers, as Channel 3 attempted to ask her questions.  

Garner says as far as past fire code violations, there were no indications an electrical fire might break out.

"In recent years they've (the Fire Marshal) been working with Patten Towers management to get them to make needed improvements and repair exit signs and things like that," says Garner.

"I don't know too much about it because they came and knocked on my door last minute and said, 'Get out! Get out! You gotta go,'" says resident Elder Sims, recounting Tuesday night's events.

Sims says he is moving out for good. His niece, Meka Jacobs, was there to help.

"I was like, 'This is too much! Don't come back!'"

We with PK Management headquarters over the phone. It says right now its main concern is the safety of their residents. It has contractors still assessing the damage.

Garner says it is not exactly clear how long it will take to repair the electrical system, saying it could take several days, up to a week.

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