Fire officials: Smoking caused Elizabethon apartment fire that seriously injured 2, including woman in Nashville burn unit

John Thompson • Sep 14, 2013 at 8:34 AM

ELIZABETHTON — The Elizabethton Fire Department said smoking was the cause of the fire that burned an apartment house at 715 W. H St. on Thursday night and caused injuries to two people.

Fire Marshal Jack Buckles said the fire originated in the first floor apartment of Jonie Garrick, 58.

"She was smoking in a recliner, watching television," Buckles said. "There were blankets and pillows on the recliner, and at some point, they began to burn. He said the fire set her clothes on fire and that got her attention.

"She put the fire out that was burning her clothes, but then she began fighting the fire in the apartment. We don't want people to fight the fire, we want them to get to safety," Buckles said.

Garrick finally retreated when she began running out of air and headed for the exit. Buckles said her neighbors on the front floor had already went out the back door and came around to help get Garrick out.

Buckles said Garrick was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center and has sense been moved to the Burn Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Garrick reportedly suffered first, second and third degree burns. Some of her worst burns were to her lower abdomen, she also had burns to her hands and arms and to the back of her head.

Buckles said the state fire marshal's office in Nashville assisted in the investigation by interviewing Garrick at Vanderbilt.

Garrick was using oxygen in her apartment and tanks were located there. Neighbors told police she was known to smoke while using oxygen, Buckles said.

The second resident injured in the fire was reported to be Dianna Phillips, 47. She was one of two people living in an upstairs apartment. Both residents jumped from the roof covering part of the first floor and Phillips sustained injuries from the jump, including broken bones, Buckles said.

The other four residents were able to escape the fire without injury. They were identified as Ronald Ubani, Tyler McNeal, Hattie Cuttrell and Judy Campbell. Campbell is Garrick's cousin and reported that Garrick has numerous medical conditions and took several medicines that caused drowsiness.

Firefighters were back on the scene early Friday morning to go through the burned apartment house and gather information.

Related article:

Update: 2 people injured in apartment building fire in Elizabethton

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