Update: Friends help rescue woman from Elizabethton house fire

John Thompson • Jan 22, 2013 at 10:21 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Two friends of a 90-year-old woman helped evacuate her to safety when a fire broke out in her Orchard Road Extension home on Tuesday afternoon and a quick response by the Elizabethton Fire Department prevented the fire in the attic of the guest quarters from spreading to the main part of the woman’s home.

The fire broke out around 4 p.m. at the residence of Evelyn Elmer, a retired sociology professor from East Tennessee State University. Her friends, Ed and Jan Peters had just come by the home because a light in a bathroom was not working and they were asked to see what was wrong.

As they walked to the bathroom, Jan said they could smell a slight odor of smoke. When he checked the recessed light over a shower, Ed discovered it was hot. He warned everyone to stand back, that he was going to pull the fixture out of the ceiling. He then discovered there were flames in the ceiling.

Their first thought was to get Elmer to safety. She had a fall several weeks ago in which she suffered a broken arm and was not as mobile as she normally is. Jan said she tried to call 911 as they were exiting the house but found the land line was not working. She had left her purse in the bathroom, so she did not have her cell phone. Despite these problems, they quickly notified 911 of the problem and helped Elmer to the front door.

The Peterses placed Elmer in a wheel chair but there is a series of steps at the door. Fortunately, the first firefighters arrived at that time and were able to move Elmer to a safe location.

“The occupant of this home is very lucky Ed and Jan Peters arrived on the scene when they did,” Fire Chief Barry Carrier said after the fire was out.

The firefighters also came in for praise from fire officials.

“Our guys did an outstanding job with a quick stop,” Fire Marshal Jack Buckles said.

Buckles said the fire was contained to the attic section of the guest quarters. He said there was about 30 percent damage in that section. The living quarters in the main section of the house had no damage, Buckles said.

The house sits on a steep hill and with the subfreezing temperatures, the Elizabethton Street Department responded to scrape the salted road to prevent the buildup of ice from the firefighting efforts.

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