UPDATE: Early morning fire damages homes while families away on - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Early morning fire damages homes while families away on vacation

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UPDATE: The Catoosa County, East Ridge, and Fort Olglethorpe Fire Departments responded to a single home fire on Caramel Lane in Rossville.

Three families, away on vacation, will return to fire-damaged homes after what neighbors describe as an explosion. Residents who live nearby say flames shot up to the sky, after the loud explosion. One home is a total loss and two others were damaged.

Neighbors say they heard a loud explosion just after 2:30 a.m. Monday morning.

Jamie Jenkins lives just a few houses down. He ran to this home, and the ones next to it, banging on doors to alert his neighbors.

“By time the fire department got there the entire house was engulfed in flames it was over there was no chance of saving the house at all,” Jenkins said.

Because the explosion was so large, Jenkins believe the fire could have ended worse if the family were home.

“Probably would've knocked them unconscious, so the fact they weren't home was awesome because it would've been hard to get them out," Jenkins said.

Fire crews say the home is a total loss, when they arrived all they could do was focus their efforts on protecting the surrounding properties. Catoosa County fire investigators say the fire does not appear to be suspicious but it's not clear what started it.

Neighbors describe hearing explosions, possibly from stored propane tanks, but that too is under investigation.

Amid the ashes is a flag bearing the family's monogram, a bicycle, and a charred yet readable bible.

Neighbors say a difficult reality for the family, but a miracle that everyone is alive.

“The fact that they could've been inside, trying to see if there’s anything you can do is the least you can do as a neighbor and a person," Jenkins said.

As for sale sign still stands in the front yard. Neighbors say the family just put their home on the market a week ago and planned to sell their home in the coming weeks.

PREVIOUS STORY: Firefighters responded to reports of a house fire early Monday morning on Caramel Lane. Neighbors tell Channel 3 they heard a loud explosion.

Officials say the call came in around 2:30 a.m.

The Catoosa County Fire Department, along with the East Ridge Fire Department, responded to the scene.

Officials say no one was home at the time of the fire.

The fire was hot enough to melt siding on neighboring houses.

This is a developing story. Stick with Channel 3 for more updates throughout the morning.

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