2 Firefighters, 2 Residents Hurt in Apartment Fire

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Knoxville (WVLT) - A Knoxville firefighter and an elderly man are both recovering at a Nashville burn center following a fire at Knoxville's Townview Tower apartments.

Investigators say the fire started in the bedroom of a third floor unit.

"He is still up there, couldn't get out," Letisha Moore has two cousins that live in Townview Tower.

When she got the call from one of them that the building was on fire, she arrived as fast as she could.

"It's killing me, I can't do nothing about it. I keep calling him every minute to see if he is okay," says Moore.

The fire alarm went off at around 1:30 a.m. Monday, sending numerous firefighters to the scene. When they arrived, smoke and fire was coming out of a third floor unit.

Several firefighters went in to help, but two of them ended up having to be rescued themselves.

"The two firefighters went to the back bedroom and when they opened a window to evacuate smoke," explains Knoxville Fire Captain Darrell Whitaker. "They had a mattress flash and then one of the firefighters fell through the mattress and entangled his hands in the coils of the mattress and as he pulled back, his gloves came off and burned his hands."

That firefighter, James Rickett, also received burns on his face and neck.

They were so severe he had to be transported to Vanderbilt's Burn Center in Nashville.

Another firefighter, James Ellis, had first and second degree burns, he was treated and released from UT Medical Center.

Two residents also had to be transported. One was taken to UT after experiencing cardiac problems.

The other went to Vanderbilt after suffering from heavy smoke inhalation.

The fire was extinguished, but not without struggles. Cold temperatures didn't help, but investigators say they caused little problems compared to the building's design.

"Since the building was block walls on all the apartments, it holds the smoke and heat in. Even the corridors, which is for evacuation purposes, was very difficult for firefighters to assist people to evacuate," explains Capt. Whitaker.

Several of the building's residents are being moved to other parts of the building.

Knoxville Fire Department officials say Firefighter James Rickett received burns on his face and neck.

He's recovering at Vanderbilt Medical Center and will have to undergo skin grafts and physical therapy.

One of the residents was also taken to Vanderbilt, but officials have not released the victim's name.