UPDATE: Neighbor remembers elderly man fatally burned - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Neighbor remembers elderly man fatally burned

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: Vanderbilt Medical Center staff confirms the 83-year-old man whose pajamas caught fire Monday morning died Tuesday.

It happened around 7 Monday morning at the Vista Ridge Apartments off Card Road.

Soddy Daisy Fire Chief Mike Guffey said Ralph Grissom told him that he was trying to keep warm at the stove when his pajamas caught fire. He jumped into the shower to put out the flames.

Official Cause on Fire Report: "After talking with the patient and his wife it was found that the gentleman was using the stove for extra heat and had gotten close to the stove eye and caught his pajamas on fire.

Grissom had 2nd degree burns on 40 percent of his body. He was taken to Erlanger before being airlifted to Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Firefighters helped get Grissom's disabled 76-year-old wife Ruby out of the smoke-filled apartment but the flames were already gone.

Chief Guffey was first on the scene, with a fire hall less than a mile away from the apartment complex. He said he was at first optimistic Grissom would survive the burns.

"He was alert and conscious, he wasn't complaining. He was a tough guy, a tough guy," said Chief Mike Guffey. "But your body starts trying to compensate for the fluid loss, you have a risk for infection. That much burn is really, really hard to get over."

"Oh yes, he was tough because he never complained about nothing," said neighbor Sue Smith. "Ralph would walk around and say, 'Hi, how's your dogs? How's your car? I like your car. Is it running good?' He was just real sociable."

Neighbor Sue Smith didn't have a picture to share of Grissom, but we get a snapshot of his life by looking at his second floor porch. With a porch swing and two faded but flying American flags, Smith said Grissom was a "gentle" man and a Navy veteran; proud of both his country and family, and caring for his handicap wife until the end.

"Under the rough edges there was a kind heart, a tender heart, and a kind spirit," Smith said.

As Smith remembered her compassionate neighbor of two years, the fire chief said there's a lesson in this tragedy. Chief Guffey believed Grissom was wearing polyester pajamas, a fabric he said could easily catch fire.

"Polyester, any synthetic fibers when they burn, they burn to you and it makes the burn a whole lot worse. I would suggest if you're gonna wear any type of thing to sleep in it would be cotton," Chief Guffey said.

Chief Guffey also reiterated the warning to never substitute a stove for a heater.

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