PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) – Pigeon Forge Fire Department responded to a rental cabin fire during the early morning hours of Easter Sunday.
Firefighters said it happened just before 3:00 on Blackberry Ridge Way. The cabin was fully engulfed in flames when responders arrived.
Twelve people were inside the cabin, two of them were forced to jump out a window to escape. The two who jumped were taken to the hospital for treatment and later released.
Surrounding cabins and vehicles suffered damage in the blaze as well. Two cabins were severely burned and three others sustained minor damage. Two vehicles were burned as well.
Fire Chief Tony Watson stressed the importance of sprinkler systems in preventing fire from spreading in instances like this one.
“There’s been a lot of discussion in our community about installing fire sprinklers,” said Chief Watson. “I’m really an advocate that we start putting them in. This is not the first time we’ve had this problem inside our county. We just need to learn from these events and make it safer for all of our visitors that come and visit with us.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Fire chief wants changes made to make cabins safer
Johnny Baggette and his wife saw flames Sunday when they looked out their window. They rushed into action, putting their fire plan to use.
“Your life is at stake. Your adrenaline kicks in and you do what you’ve got to do,” said Johnny Baggette.
Their home is across the street from the fire, but was spared from damage.
The Baggettes helped the family that was renting here.
“The folks that were actually burned out were here at my home. We had pulled them in from the lawn and I’d went to Walmart to get them a few basic things to try and get them started,” said Baggette.
Family members who were in the cabin say seven kids were on the first floor and 14 people were in the cabin total. A parent jumped out the window and another parent began handing the children to the parent outside. It was around a 20 foot drop. There were broken bones and minor burns, but the family says everyone survived. The family says there was no back exit. They couldn’t get to the fire extinguishers and say the fire alarm did not sound.
Chief Watson says as of 2014, cabins built over 5,000 square feet that can sleep 12 people must have sprinklers, but the cabin that burned was built in early 2000 so it isn’t required to have the sprinklers. Currently smaller cabins do not require sprinklers.
“Fire sprinklers save lives. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that,” said Chief Watson.
Baggette suggests having an exit plan. He says people should make sure their smoke detectors are working. He also says there need to be serious conversations about more sprinklers in cabins.
“That’s been talked about a lot, putting sprinklers in. It’s probably going to come to that,” said Baggette.
Chief Watson says he is in discussions with the city manager about requiring more cabins to install sprinklers, but the council would have to decide.
The manager of the company that manages the burned cabin said that an employee checked the smoke detectors in February and they were working properly.
Chief Watson says currently in Pigeon Forge fire inspectors do not do the cabin inspections. He says he is working on trying to change this and get an inspection plan in place. Watson says there are around 900 cabins in Pigeon Forge. He says many are rented out by rental companies but some are rented directly by the owner which makes code enforcement difficult and hard to track.