UPDATE: Fire ruled as arson after police rescue residents - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Fire ruled as arson after police rescue residents

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - UPDATE: “I don't understand why you would attempt to set someone's home on fire, my family has been living there, 50 years or better,” said Raymond Stargin.

It's been a week since fire ripped through this home on Crutchfield Street, nearly killing four of Raymond Stargin's relatives.

86 year-old Callie Stargin, 24 year-old Edward Jackson, and two other people escaped the fire thanks to quick thinking police officers. Investigators now know the cause.

“The physical evidence and what they are hearing from eyewitnesses, they have determined that the fire on Crutchfield St. was deliberately set.,” said Bruce Garner, Public Information Director, Chattanooga Fire Department.

Now the search is on for the suspect or suspects responsible. Investigators placed a sign on what's left of the home offering a reward for information in the case.

"If they have any information that may help them solve this case, they will certainly appreciate it," said Garner.

Stargin says his 86 year-old mother, who survived the fire is emotional. The news has hit her hard.

"It's beginning to break down on her now, she wants to go out there, but we trying to keep her from there you know," said Stargin.

Although the family had insurance, and the house will be repaired, he says the person who started the fire took something that can't be replaced.

"But it won't replace everything that was lost, our whole history was lost in that house," said Stargin.

The fire department is offering up to $1,500 for information in the case.
If you have information that could help call 1800-762-3017.


PREVIOUS STORY:  Last week's fire that almost killed four people was deliberately set, according to Chattanooga fire investigators.

The department won't say why its been ruled arson but are now asking for the public's help. A cash reward of $1,500 is being offered for information. Call the Tennessee Arson Hotline at 1-800-762-3017.

Jackson was taken to the Augusta Burn Center and continues to recover. The investigation is ongoing.

The Stargin family shared a statement exclusively with Channel 3 Eyewitness News this week:

"To the (4) Police Officers-Caleb Brooks, Harry Horton, Trevor Creighton and Sgt. Daniel Francis, our family wishes to express our sincere gratitude for your efforts in the life saving rescue of our family members on Thursday morning, March 19th 2015.  We realize had it not been for you, the outcome would have been very different. To the Chattanooga Fire Department and All other 1st Responders..... We Thank you for a job well done, and all that you do to serve our community. To WRCB Channel 3 and all other area affiliates, we thank you and your viewing audience for all of your prayers and concerns.  In more ways than each of you will ever know we are so very, very thankful for "EVERYONE" that had a part.  OUR HEART SAYS THANK YOU. Gods richest Blessings to each of you."

PREVIOUS STORY:Thursday's fire on Crutchfield Street made headlines after four Chattanooga Police officers saved the family, including a 9-month old baby trapped inside the home.

Lt. Bobby Morgan with Chattanooga Fire Department was part of the team that fought the flames. He says not only is the family alive today because of the rescue, but also because they closed the door to the bedroom they were stuck in.

“By that door being closed, it didn't allow the gases off that fire to travel into the bedroom and it helped give them enough times so that the police officers could get the bars off the windows and help them get out of the window,” Morgan said.

Morgan says thermal imaging cameras showed temperatures inside the home reaching more than 300-degrees but when they got to the room where the family was, the temperature difference was drastic.

“The bedroom had light smoke. We checked it with thermal imaging and it was 120 degrees at the ceiling and 100 degrees on the floor,” he added.

Morgan says it's something that should be discussed during every family's evacuation plan, in case the situation were to ever happen.

“It's a chaotic situation and it's good for everyone in the house to know where they're going to go, how to get out of the house and what to do if they can't get out of the house,” he said.

Fire officials stress it's important to have working smoke detectors inside your home and to designate a meeting place for family members outside of the home in case of an emergency.

PREVIOUS STORY: Fire officials say a family was within 3-4 minutes of dying in a house fire Thursday morning and credit Chattanooga Police with saving their lives.

An 86-year-old woman, a 24-year-old man, a 22-year-old woman and a 9-month old infant were all taken to Erlanger to be treated for minor to moderate smoke inhalation, according to the fire department. The 24-year-old man had to be taken to the Augusta Burn Center.

A family member who lives next door to the Crutchfield Street home saw the smoke and flames and called police. Then, she tried saving her family members trapped inside by the windows' security bars.

"I just know I need to get in there and save them," said Jackie Stargin. "But there was so much black smoke I couldn't get in."

The 24-year-old man escaped on his own but got 2nd and 3rd degree burns to his hands and forearms.

Stargin's grandmother and the two others were trapped in a back bedroom.

Three Chattanooga police officers and a sergeant pried security bars off a bedroom window to rescue the people trapped inside the burning home early Thursday morning. Officers Caleb Brooks, Harry Horton and Trevor Creighton as well as Sgt. Daniel Francis helped the family out through a small bedroom window.

"The mom had the baby held up to the bars trying to let the baby breathe fresh air," said Officer Horton. "There's a baby standing within two inches of you and you have to get to it."

Francis had a crowbar in his car to pry the bars off.

"It does keep people out who are trying to break in, but at the same time it does keep you out as you're trying to get out as well," Sgt. Francis said.

All residents were able to get out of the home.

"With the fire spreading like it was, all four of those individuals would have died within the next three or four minutes," said Captain Anthony Moore. "Those police officers saved their lives."

Stargin calls the first responders heroes.

"Just the mere fact that that's what the city pays us to do," said Sgt. Francis. "Not that we take that lightly but that's what we're here for: to serve the community."

At least one person suffered cuts getting out of the window. Family members suffered from smoke inhalation, said Bruce Garner, public information officer for Chattanooga Fire Department.

A fire investigator is on scene trying to determine what started the fire. The home is a total loss, with damages estimated at $80,000.

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