The autistic man injured in a morning house fire remained in critical condition Friday night after a rescue that injured the Knoxville firefighter who carried him to safety. Navua Woods, 25, was being treated at the Vanderbilt University Burn Center in Nashville, a hospital spokeswoman said. He was taken there after being plucked from a blazing home by a firefighter overcome by flames and smoke in the process.
Senior Firefighter Chris Medley and Woods were cut off from the front door of the Cumberland Estates rental home at 3916 Deerfield Road and had to be rescued by fellow firefighters who responded to Medley's "Mayday" call for help.
The West Knoxville resident and the firefighter were taken from the house by ambulance to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville Fire Department spokesman Capt. D.J. Corcoran said. Woods suffered second- and third-degree burns to 15 percent of his body, according to Corcoran.
Medley was being treated for smoke inhalation and for first- and second-degree burns to his neck and ears at UT Medical Center. He was being held overnight for observation and declined to speak to the media, Corcoran said.
Medley has worked for KFD since 2007.
A KFD investigator determined the fire began when a thermostat-controlled wall heater on the lower floor turned on and ignited items that had been left too close to the heater, Corcoran said. That area would have been directly under the part of the house where Woods was hiding on the second level.
A resident called E-911 at 9:35 a.m.to report the blaze, saying an autistic child remained in the home. Despite the icy roads, the first engine arrived within two minutes of the call for help, Corcoran said.
With the report of a person still in the burning home, firefighters went into rescue mode as opposed to firefighting mode, Corcoran said.
"That was our main goal, was getting the victim out of the structure," Corcoran said.
Medley entered through the front door and made his way to a rear bedroom of the split-foyer-style home. He found Woods, who was hiding there.
Medley was carrying Woods -- who weighs more than 200 pounds -- when he encountered growing flames at the front of the house.
"He was on his way out and saw flames blocking his way," Corcoran said.
The firefighter was trapped in a hallway that leads to stairs and the front door.
Medley at 9:43 a.m. yelled out a "Mayday" call on his radio. The fire captain on Engine 17 made his way to the door with an attack line, knocking the fire back enough to help Medley bring out Woods, Corcoran said.
Medley collapsed in the front yard on his back and was treated with oxygen while Woods was taken directly to an ambulance.
Neighbors described flames shooting 15-20 feet from windows and the front door of the rental home.
Elizabeth Francis, 32, who lives next door to the burned home, said her 12-year-old son, who was playing in the snow, first told her of the fire.
"She (the grandmother) was trying to get him (Woods) to come out, but he was scared and had barricaded himself in a room," Francis said.
Neighbors said Woods lived there with his sister and her two children. Francis was stricken by the sight of the two children standing outside the house in bare feet and the grandmother shivering in the cold. She gave the grandmother a blanket to cover herself.
"I gave the children jackets and socks because I felt so badly for them," Francis said. Francis took the family into her home until other relatives arrived.
Written by Knoxville News-Sentinel
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