Injured Chattanooga firefighters recount experience - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Injured Chattanooga firefighters recount experience

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Three Chattanooga firefighters were severely burned while battling a house fire last week and won't be back on the job for several more weeks as they recover.

Friday, they shared their first-hand accounts of what happened.

The fire happened October 7th on Fourth Avenue in the East Lake neighborhood.

READ MORE | Chattanooga firefighters burned in house fire

Though it turned out no one was home, neighbors reported someone may be trapped inside. Firefighters rushed in, but ended up being the ones hurt.

"Been in hot fires before, but this was definitely unusual. I could feel it go through the gear," Chattanooga Fire Department Senior Firefighter Dan Peterson said.

Friday, firefighters Dan Peterson and Chad Williams were covered in bandages. They have first, second and third degree burns on their heads, arms and hands. They saw some of their charred gear for the first time, bringing back vivid memories of what happened inside this 4th Avenue home.  

"When they tell you there might be somebody inside, that changes everything," Chattanooga Fire Department Firefighter Chad Williams said.

As they searched for possible victims, they're believed to have experienced what's called a "flashover."  

"All of a sudden it got really hot, really fast and we knew something was not right," Williams said.

Flashovers are uncommon, but it's when all of the combustible materials inside, reach their ignition temperatures at once, like an explosion. Temperatures can jump to an extreme 1,000 degrees plus.

"Felt my hand sizzle. of course my immediate reaction is to grab it and when I went to grab it, my hand, I could actually feel the skin move under the glove," Williams said.

Unable to see, they stayed low and got out as fast as possible. Peterson, a senior firefighter, says he didn't realize the extent of his injuries until someone pulled off his melted helmet.

"I knew I had been burned and would probably have some blisters, but when I saw the helmet I was shocked," Peterson said.

Williams was only a few months out of the training academy. This was his first big fire.

"You could spot my bright yellow rookie hat from a mile away before we went into that fire," Williams said.

But, safety officials say that gear still did it's job, because it saved their lives.

"It protects from heat. There's nothing to protect you from direct flame. There's no gear out there that can do that," Chattanooga Fire Department Safety Officer Shawn O'Kelley said.

Both say they're ready to get back on the job, though it will take several weeks before they're healed enough.

"I'll be nervous the first time a fire comes in again. That'll be different remembering what happened, but we love our job," Peterson said.

Captain Dean Rogers was not there Friday. He's the third firefighter burned in that fire. His injuries are less severe. Just hours before the fire call came in last Monday, he was named Firefighter of the Year, for saving a child's life last spring.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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