NWGA Scanner | February 8th, 2022
“Hurry, please, I don’t want to die!”
“Hurry, the whole house is on fire.”
“Hurry, I’m burning up.”
As Whitfield County Fire Department crews raced to the scene of a mobile home fire on Jan. 28, a disabled 71-year-old man trapped inside the burning structure can be heard pleading with 911 telecommunicators Raina Hall and Collin Calhoun to send help quickly.
While it probably seemed like hours to the waiting victim, Lt. Justin Hutcherson and Engineer Derek Craft actually reached 525 Doe Trail in just seven minutes, where upon arrival they reported heavy smoke coming from the front of the home.
After making their way inside, the two firefighters were able to locate the man lying on the floor about 15 to 20 feet inside the residence and after pulling him to safety began treatment outside.
“They didn’t hesitate,” Assistant Chief Nathan Callaway said of the firefighters. “They went right in the structure and were able to get the guy out, pretty much relying on their training and their experience. The next crews that arrived were then able to come in and put the fire out while that first crew was taking care of the patient. Then once EMS arrived, they took over his treatment.”
The single-wide mobile home suffered “pretty heavy fire damage” to about three-fourths of the structure, according to Callaway.
“There was zero visibility inside the trailer,” he said. “Even the fire crews that went in reported zero visibility; there was smoke from floor to ceiling. They were kind of feeling their way in until they felt the man and they were actually able to communicate with him to find his location before they were able to bring him out. Part of the problem with him not being able to get out on his own was the smoke was so thick he couldn’t see the door to crawl to it.”
When located, the man was lying in the floor trying to stay as close to the floor as he could so he could breathe, Callaway said, “and when they pulled him out, he actually still had his cellphone in his hand with the 911 operator still on the line.”
In the aftermath of the fire, Callaway emphasized the importance of installing smoke alarms and making sure they are working correctly.
“We’re not sure, but we didn’t find any evidence of smoke detectors … working smoke detectors in the house,” he said. “Normally when we go into a structure fire, they’re still beeping. When we get there, we can hear them, but we couldn’t hear any working smoke detectors.”
The victim was alert and breathing, appeared to be suffering from smoke inhalation, and was turned over to Hamilton EMS for treatment and carry to Hamilton Medical Center.
The initial 911 call came in at 1:41 p.m., and fire crews arrived on scene and began rescue operations at 1:48 p.m. The fire was marked as being under control at 2:16 p.m. The official cause of the blaze is still under investigation, but the resident told a telecommunicator during the 911 call that he believed it had started in the kitchen.
“I commend the efforts of our firefighters on this incident,” Callaway said. “They acted swiftly and without hesitation, relying on their training and experience, to serve and protect the citizens of Whitfield County.”
Likewise, Director of Emergency Services David Metcalf with Whitfield County 911/EMA praised the efforts of Hall and Calhoun, along with Whitfield County Fire Department dispatcher Georgia Chastain.
“Our 911 dispatchers did a great job during this stressful call,” Metcalf said. “They used their skills and training to assist the Whitfield County Fire Department in saving the homeowner while he was trapped in his residence. I am very proud of my staff and thankful that they were able to help save a life.”