VFD chief suffers burns fighting apartment fire in Hampton

John Thompson • Apr 19, 2013 at 10:21 PM

HAMPTON — Fire Chief Johnny Isaacs of the Hampton-Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department suffered burns to his neck and back Thursday afternoon when part of the ceiling and insulation fell on him while he was fighting an apartment fire at 830 Deerfield Lane.

“We had to go inside the building to get to the fire,” Isaacs said Friday. As soon as he entered, pieces hit him and he felt the burn, but he continued to battle the blaze.

Investigator Larry Vaughn with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department said the fire was reported shortly after 2 p.m. When he arrived, he said smoke and flames were visible from the top rear and left side of the apartment house. Vaughn said there were firefighters and equipment from several volunteer fire departments fighting the fire.

Vaughn talked with Sarah Potter, a resident of one of the two apartments in the building. Potter told him she smelled smoke and exited her apartment. She said she saw a smoldering reclining chair sitting below the staircase to the second apartment.

Potter said she went up the stairs to warn Terry Sams, the resident of that apartment. Potter said when she walked back down the stairs, the reclining chair burst into flames and began to melt the vinyl siding of the building. Potter said she alerted Sams and then called 911.

Sams said a friend, Lisah Kerwin, had been visiting him and had been standing outside smoking earlier in the visit.

Kerwin told Vaughn that approximately an hour to an hour and a half before the fire broke out, she had been smoking at the top of the stairs and had flipped the ashes toward the gravel driveway below.

Vaughn wrote in his report that it appeared “embers from the cigarette ignited the reclining chair which, in turn, ignited the structure.”

There were no injuries reported to the tenants or guests.

Isaacs said he has suffered burns at other fires in the past, but this is the first one that was ever reported.

“The EMS took a look at my neck and though it looked kinda bad. Of course I couldn’t see back there so we went to the medical center, where they treated me. I should be all right as long as I don’t get it infected,” Isaacs said. He said he suffered first- and some second-degree burns.

When he was burned in the past, Isaacs said he kept it to himself and treated his burns back at the station or home.

Isaacs said the top floor of the apartment building was nearly a loss and the bottom floor sustained heavy smoke and water damage.

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