Firefighters face extremes during cold-weather blazes

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By Cindy Simpson

Rockwood firefighters fought off bitter cold as they battled two blazes in freezing temperatures, including one in which they rescued an injured woman and several pets.
Inez Newman was rescued from a fire at 624 Trinity Avenue around 5 a.m. Sunday, according to Rockwood Fire Chief Mike Wertz.
Wertz said she was rescued from an upstairs bedroom by Capt. Tim Robinson and firefighters Jimmy Pelfrey and Matt Crabtree.
“She apparently was down on smoke; she couldn’t get out,” Wertz said.
“My guys that rescued her out of the top floor, I really appreciate what they did,” Wertz added.
Wertz said Newman was taken to Roane Medical Center, then to University of Tennessee Medical Center before being sent to Vanderbilt Medical Center.
“I’m  understanding she did have some burns to some parts of her body and definitely some heavy smoke inhalation. I would say very serious condition yesterday. I can’t say critical, because I don’t know for sure,” Wertz said.
According to dispatch reports, a 12-year-old daughter called Sunday morning and said there was fire in her bedroom and that her mother was trying to put it out and had told her to call 911.
Several others, at least four or five individuals including some children, escaped on their own.
Robinson was injured when he went back in and rescued a dog and cat after assisting to get Newman out of the home.
The cat either bit or scratched him, causing his arm to swell, according to Wertz.
“He (Robinson) is still off duty. He was sent to the emergency room. The cat has been captured. It is being monitored, whatever they do. It apparently scratched or bit him. His hand and arm swelled up real bad,” Wertz said.
“He picked the cat up to get it outside, and I guess the cat probably didn’t want to go out,” Wertz said.
Fire at the home was contained to the upstairs but the home suffered heavy smoke damage.
Firefighters received the call on a second fire at 7:28 p.m. at 521 Tarwater St.
That fire was contained to the kitchen and part of the living room according to Wertz.
“They had gone to the grocery store, were gone about 20 minutes and returned home to find it on fire,” Wertz said.
The kitchen suffered extremely heavy fire damage and the rest of the home had heat and smoke damage.
Wertz said both fires are under investigation and the fire marshal is offering assistance to their investigation at the Trinity fire.
West Roane County Volunteer Fire Department responded to both scenes for mutual aid.
Harriman Fire Department was on call in case of another emergency happening during these calls.
Wertz said fighting fires in the bitter cold is as dangerous like fighting fires in extremely hot weather.
“You have to rotate your people out and let them get warm. We try to as much as we can,” Wertz said.
They also take portable heaters to the scene, he said.