ONLY ON 3: Officer rescues man from burning home - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

ONLY ON 3: Officer rescues man from burning home

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A Chattanooga Police officer says he was just doing his job when rescuing a man trapped inside a burning home.

Officials got the call of a fire at a home with three people trapped inside, including a little girl, on N. Hawthorne Street just after 5:30 Monday afternoon.

Before fire crews arrived, neighbors and a police officer busted through a window to save the family threatened by the flames.

Officer Mikel Thomas sat down with Channel 3 exclusively to tell his story.

He joined the Chattanooga Police Department a little over a year ago after serving three years in the military.

He believes all of his experience and training helped Monday when seconds mattered most.

“I got a call for a fire. A house fire with possible people trapped inside,” Thomas said.

Charred remains are what's left of this home on N. Hawthorne Street.

“Once on scene, the flames were pretty high,” he added.

They're also a reminder of the heroism that played out as neighbors and police came together to help a man trapped inside.

Thomas was the first responder to show up to the burning home.

“I pulled up passed the house, everyone told me everyone was okay. But I heard louder screams from behind the house,” he said.

The screams were from an older man trapped inside around the back. That's when Thomas and a neighbor ran to a window to help.

“It was boarded up, we had to knock it out. He was yelling that he couldn't get out,” he said.

Both knocked out the window making only enough room to get the man away from the smoke and flames.

“We had to pull him out of a wooden hole, about 12 inches,” Thomas said.

Once outside, Thomas says the man was emotional but alive.

It was this officer's quick thinking, military background and police training that took over making the rescue possible.

“Overall, it just helped not to think about it. From what I've been through in my life, you just go. You know, you have no second chances, so you just have to hurry up,” he said.

But hero isn't a label this officer will accept. For him, it's part of the duty that comes with the badge.

Thomas said, “I don't come to work every day and think I have to do this. You just get on scene somewhere and you just do it. You don't think ‘Oh no,' or ‘I have a family at home.' It just happens.”

The American Red Cross is assisting that family tonight.

As crews clean up after Monday's fire on N. Hawthorne Street, James Wright takes in the scene just a few feet away.

“I saw the blaze going up and I ran across the street, we tried to get the lady and her twins out of the house [next door] and we did that,” he said.

There isn't much space between these homes, which is why Wright and others who live nearby knew they had to act fact in case the fire spread.

“When I stepped out my door, the blaze was everywhere. It looked like our Lord,” he added.

Officials believe a lit cigarette started the fire just after 5:30 Monday night in the home where two adults and one child were inside.

Fire officials say the two adults tried to put the fire out with water from the kitchen. When that failed, they tried to shove the couch out the front door, but couldn't get it all the way out. The fire spread to the front porch before firefighters put the fire out.

That's when neighbors, including a Chattanooga Police officer, helped get the three out of the home through a window. No one was hurt.

Channel 3 spoke with many neighbors, including that officer, who helped get many to safety. None of them wanted to go on camera.

Neighbors helping one another is something Wright says he's happy to be a part of.

“We keep our eyes on each other in this area,” he said.

Wright trimmed a tree out in front of the home last month. He believes the fire could have easily been worse.

“If I had never cut the tree down, it probably would have burned the other houses,” he said.

Investigators say the home suffered about $30,000 worth of damage.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
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