Three children survive house fire; mother missing
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When the first fire truck came over the hill, the roof of the old farmhouse was collapsing, three scared little children had taken sanctuary in the family Chevrolet Suburban and their mother had apparently not made it out of their burning home.
Townsend Volunteer Fire Department firefighters, who got the call at 3 a.m. Monday and arrived on scene at 3:10 a.m., immediately got the two boys and one girl — two with bare feet — out of the vehicle, which was adjacent to the house and catching fire. The vehicle is now a burned-out shell.
The children, ages 12, 8 and 5, who lived with their mother at 239 Webb Road in Townsend, were transferred to a warm fire truck, one clutching a small dog.
Father died in August
Their father died of a heart attack in August.
No names are being released pending an autopsy at University of Tennessee Medical Center on the body of the person found dead in the house, according to the Blount County Sheriff’s Office.
The children told firefighters that their mother’s room was in the back right-hand side of the frame structure, said Townsend Fire Chief Don Stallions.
“Firefighters attempted to enter the residence there, but when they pulled out the remainder of broken glass in a window in that area, it sounded like a jet engine coming out of a wall of fire when the oxygen reached the blaze.
“There was no way to get inside,” he said. “It was a very hot fire, being fueled by the old, dry wood. We fought it aggressively, but it went up real quick. We couldn’t do an interior attack because it was collapsing.”
There was also the problem of a propane tank behind a bush on one side of the house and a diesel fuel oil tank on a raised stand between the house and an open-sided farm shed that housed hay bales and other equipment.
“The kids did a good job of getting out of the House,” Stallions said.
Townsend requested mutual aid from Blount County Fire Department at 3:10 a.m. and the first Blount County firefighter was on the scene from Walland at 3:24 a.m.
As 12 firefighters and three trucks from Townsend and seven firefighters, one tanker and two support trucks from Blount County fought the blaze, additional emergency personnel made calls to provide what comfort, support and safety they could for the three siblings.
Church steps in
Employees with the state Department of Children’s Services drove to the scene to collect the children, but when they reached the top of the first large hill they were met by a woman the boys knew, a member of their church family. She stayed with them all day.
The family home church is Bethel Baptist Church in Townsend and some church members gathered around the children to provide support Monday afternoon.
The siblings are now in the care of family members.
The children have literally no possessions left. A church member said a fund will likely be set up soon at a bank to accept donations for the children.
Stallions said the fire debris will smoulder for days but there will be no danger of it spreading.
Blount County Sheriff’s Office is continuing the investigation into the cause and origin of the fire. The sheriff’s office brought in its mobile crime unit. The scene will be under 24-hour surveillance by deputies until the investigation is complete.
The structure was owned by Doug Myers of Townsend.
Rural/Metro Ambulance Service also responded to the scene.