KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knoxville Fire Department believes arson may be involved in an apartment fire in West Knoxville that lead to seven people being hospitalized.
“Investigators were able to make a pretty quick determination that it was a set fire,” Mark Wilbanks, the assistant chief with KFD said.
KFD shared that at 8:44 p.m. Wednesday, Knox County 911 began receiving calls about a fire on Flanders Lane at The Country Day Apartments. While on route, both KFD and Knoxville Police received reports of multiple people trapped in the building.
According to KFD, the majority of the fire was in the hallway of the building, with the residents trapped in their apartments by the fire and smoke.
“Unfortunately, this is the way that people normally know to leave the building. That made this fire much more dangerous than it should’ve been,” Wilbanks said.
Once getting on scene, both KFD and KPD began rescue efforts. Everyone trapped was able to be rescued. However, due to smoke conditions, one police officer required additional assistance from KFD with rescuing a family.
At 8:59 p.m., KFD shared that their incident command has reported that the fire was out. Of those rescued, KFD said four adults and three children were sent to the hospital. All were evaluated for smoke inhalation, and as of Friday afternoon, everyone was reported to be okay.
KFD investigators shared on Thursday that they “determined the fire to have been intentionally set.” KFD is asking for the communities help in finding who is responsible. Anyone with information is asked to please call 1-800-762-3017 or email KFDArson@knoxvilletn.gov. There is a reward of up to $5,000 available for information about those involved.
Two of the seven sent to the hospital were police officers who were involved in the rescue efforts.
“For a police officer that’s above and beyond the call of duty. You don’t expect a police officer to go running into a burning building, just like they don’t expect us to go running after criminals. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do and it’s in your human nature to want to help people especially if you do this kind of work,” said Mark Wilbanks with KFD.
The Knoxville Police Department shared the officers have been released from the hospital. “We are proud of their courage and heroism and relieved that everybody is ok,” wrote KPD on Facebook.
The fire also displaced 11 people. The American Red Cross is helping them.
“We’ve got the American Red Cross working to find somewhere for everybody to go, unfortunately, we had to pull the power on the building,” said Wilbanks.
KFD shared that there was moderate fire damage to the building’s hallway and entrance. The six apartments also sustained mild smoke damage.
Wilbanks said there’s more residents should know besides checking their smoke alarm to make sure safety remains a top priority in situations similar to this one, especially for those residing in an apartment.
“Make sure you know an alternate way out of your apartment,” Wilbanks said. “These folks were trapped in their apartment because there was fire in the hallway, so know where a window or another door is in your unit that you can get out to a balcony or something,” he said. “Test your windows, make sure you know how to open them, and if you live on the upper floors of an apartment building, it does not hurt to buy an escape ladder and know how to use it, and we even say test that ladder and make sure you know how to deploy it.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with additional information.