UPDATED: Catoosa home destroyed in fire
(WRCB) - Catoosa Fire & Rescue would not have to confront Deputy Chief Jim White's biggest concern when they responded to a 911 call to the mobile home just off Roach Hollow Road.
"We were afraid there may be some people trapped in the house," he says.
But Tina Plott's daughter, Lisa, her daughter's fiance' Mike Smith, and her two little grandsons, Jamie, 5, and Jackson, 4, are out before firefighters arrive.
"Her oldest boy came knocking on the bathroom door and telling her 'smoke,'" Plott says.
"He heard the smoke detector."
Smoke was pouring out of the back bedroom.
"She tried to go back in to get the dogs. And Mike's Daddy's pictures off the wall," Plott says.
"She couldn't go in!"
Three fire units would join in the fight. But getting to the scene was difficult.
"It's on a pretty steep driveway next to the creek, White says. "We couldn't get access to the side of the structure and we had power on the residence. North Georgia Electric had a technician come out and remove the power."
Then there was the propane tanks.
"They had two heaters," Plott says. I don't know whether it was the propane that done (sic) it."
"They probably just added fuel to the fire and helped it grow," White says.
The mobile home was a fixer-upper, Smith tells Eyewitness News.
"It needed work before we moved in," he says. "I did a lot of work on the roof, and replaced some outlets. One room didn't have power at all."
Smith agreed to trade 'sweat equity' for a break on the rent; paying $350 monthly, while making repairs both major and minor.
Fire Marshals are focusing much of their investigation on such factors, according to Deputy Chief White.
"It's probably an accidental fire," he says.
The cost to the family?
"Everything," Plott says. "Their dogs. Their clothes. Their Christmas presents. Everything but what they had on their backs."
Smith had no renter's insurance.
"I'm working two jobs; it's been tough," he says. "You can bet I'll have it now."
The Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross is providing food, replacement clothing, and four nights in a nearby motel, according to Executive Director Jeff Putnam.
It also is serving as a clearinghouse for general relief, and donations specifically for the Smith family: (706) 278-5144
"It's all they had," Plott says.
"I'm just glad they're safe. Glad they weren't in it."