David Knoop, 72, was reportedly dozing in his living room late Thursday when he was awakened by his wife and 10 year-old grandson. He was reportedly surrounded by fire and smoke.
As the family attempted to exit the burning home located on Windsor Court, Knoop apparently became disoriented and was overcome by the flames and smoke.
Lt. Donnie Sullivan and Lt. Ben Atchley have been busy investigating the cause and origin of the fire, which totally destroyed the home.
Knoop and his wife both called 911 as the house burned and they attempted their exodus, according to Sullivan.
Tuesday, one of the three rescuers, CFD firefighter Cody Hicks, visited the scene and explained the chain of events and the positioning of himself, Pete Van Dusen and Shaun McAmis as the three entered the burning home to save Knoop.
Hicks told Sullivan and Atchley the three entered a door to the left rear of the home. Hicks began a visual sweep while McAmis went farther left and did the same.
“In just seconds, visibility was gone,” said Hicks.
While he and McAmis swept the area searching for Knoop, Van Dusen had gone to the right. The three firefighters reportedly entered the burning structure without a lifeline or fire hose, valuable tools needed in the firefighting business.
This all occurred in a matter of seconds, preceded by a quick response to the initial call for help. In less than five minutes, the first engine had arrived on the scene and reported flames and smoke coming from the structure.
Knowing the job they had to do, the three firefighters raced to the rear of the home and began their search.
Van Dusen found Knoop still sitting in his motorized wheelchair but unconscious.
According to Hicks, Van Dusen informed he and McAmis he (Van Dusen) had found the victim. Hicks and McAmis then reportedly began to crawl toward Van Dusen’s position.
Fire and smoke at that time had rolled downward making the air inside the home hot and toxic.
“I don’t think I have ever crawled that fast,” said Hicks.
As the firefighters reached Knoop and Van Dusen, they immediately sprang into action, dumping Knoop to the floor for less smoke exposure, then picking him up and carrying him to safety.
Awaiting them outside the burning home were Knoop’s wife and grandson, along with the engineer of the fire truck, firefighter Larry Hafley, who had positioned the rig so other arriving equipment could be put in place to battle the blaze.
Hafley and the engineer from another truck pulled a fire hose from the engine as Hicks, McAmis and Van Dusen exited the structure with the victim in their grasp.
“We had great communication from the 911 dispatcher and Pete said we have a rescue to make,” said Hafley.
“When we pulled up, those boys were gone,” Hafley said referencing the three firefighters who went into the burning home.
Wes Davis and Casey Croft were the 911 dispatchers who had provided the valuable information for the firefighters to make their decisions enabling them to save the man’s life.
Sullivan and Atchley, along with Hicks, agreed each second counted and any seconds lost would have resulted in a tragic fire death.
According to Atchley, who oversees training for CFD, Hicks, McAmis and Van Dusen will explain to their fellow firefighters what they did during a Rapid Intervention Training session next week.
“It was an adrenaline rush,” said Hicks, “After we got out of the house and I ran to the truck for a medical bag, paramedics arrived on the scene and found I was (medically) exhausted.”
Atchley said this is normal and he wants other firefighters who experience this in the future to be aware of the toll this type of event can take on a firefighter’s body.
Paramedics from Bradley County Emergency Medical Service took over and began treating the injured Knoop, his wife, Norma, and their grandson Lawson Staton.
Knoop was flown to Erlanger Medical Center then onto the Joseph Still Burn Unit in Augusta. He had suffered burns to his face and smoke inhalation, according to reports.
Norma Knoop and Staton were also treated for minor injuries.
According to Sullivan, the cause of the fire remains undetermined, but it could have been caused by a battery charger for another motorized wheelchair.
Investigation is continuing.