Second firefighter injured in latest of three major fires in Unicoi

Sue Guinn Legg • Oct 23, 2018 at 7:52 PM

UNICOI — A second volunteer firefighter was injured Monday while battling the third of three major fires in Unicoi within little more than a day.

Chief Robert Adams of the Unicoi Volunteer Fire Department said a volunteer from Unicoi County’s Limestone Cove Volunteer Fire Department suffered serious cuts to his hand in the most recent fire on Monday.

A volunteer from Carter County’s Central Volunteer Fire Department was treated and released from a local hospital for injuries received the first fire early Sunday morning.

The Sunday fire, which destroyed a vacant commercial building next door to Wiseman’s Clothing and Shoes on Unicoi Drive, was reported around 1 a.m. and kept firefighters from Unicoi and several neighboring departments at the scene for nearly 10 hours.

The second fire was reported about 2 a.m. Monday at mobile home located just off Unicoi Drive. A mother, her adult daughter, a 2-year-old child and an infant were asleep in the residence when the fire broke out and narrowly escape without injury. Adams said the home was also total loss.

Investigation of both of the were turned over to the state fire marshal’s office

Adams said the third fire was reported at larger home on Ben Effler Road around 10 a.m. Monday, not long after Unicoi firefighters had cleared the scene of the overnight fire.

Adams said a woman who lived in the home was in the shower when she smelled smoke and managed to get outside without injury. Her husband was working in a shop near the house when he saw the smoke and was running toward the home when his wife came out.

As in the two earlier fires, Adams said several neighboring fire departments responded but were unable to bring the blaze under control. “We never could knock it down,” Adams said.

Adams said the house was total loss, and because of the extent of damage his department was unable to determine the cause of blaze.

A cause had not yet been determined in any of fires and Adams said it is unknown if this weekend’s arrival of colder temperatures was a factor.

However, Adams said, “that is a problem at this time of year, especially when it gets really cold as it did on Sunday. A lot of people have portable heaters and when the temperature drops those thermostats come on and anything near the heaters will catch fire.”

For safety, Adams advised everyone to check their heaters to make sure nothing is near them and to install multiple smoke alarms throughout their home.

“A smoke alarm will wake you up and get you out. At my house, I have one in every room,” he said.

Adams said the fires all occurred within a 30-hour time period and had exhausted the department’s volunteers. “We only have 40 volunteers in our department and anytime you have three major fires within that short of time it’s pretty easy to exhaust your manpower,” he said.