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Children injured in Unicoi house fire

Investigators are working to determine the cause of the Feb. 7 house fire on Unicoi Drive that injured two children. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)
Investigators are working to determine the cause of the Feb. 7 house fire on Unicoi Drive that injured two children. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)
By Keeli Parkey
Managing Editor

An 8-year-old female remains in an induced coma in a Nashville hospital following a fire that completely a a Unicoi home on Sunday, Feb. 7.

Sheriff Mike Hensley told The Erwin Record the girl suffered severe burns in the fire, which was first reported around 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 7. Hensley said 11 individuals were in the home when the fire was discovered by an elderly female.

“She was sleeping on the couch and woke up to use the restroom,” Hensley said. “When she returned, the couch was on fire.”

The woman immediately notified the other occupants of the home and they exited the structure.

A Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department deputy was on Unicoi Drive when the call was dispatched and he arrived within moments, Hensley said.

“When the officer arrived, the home was completely engulfed in flames,” Hensley added. “It was a chaotic scene.”
After exiting the home, the 8-year-old female attempted to go back inside the burning house to retrieve a toy, according to Hensley.

“She ran back to the house and a 10-year-old boy tried to stop her,” he added. “Both children were then severely burned. The girl ran to a neighbor’s house yelling, ‘I’m hurting. I’m hurting.’ The neighbor called for EMS.”

Both children were taken to Johnson City Medical Center (JCMC), Hensley said. They were later airlifted to Vanderbilt. The elderly female was also taken to JCMC where she was treated and released for smoke inhalation.
The 10-year-old boy is expected to be released from the hospital soon, according to the sheriff.

Hensley did not release the names of the victims.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the sheriff’s department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Hensley said the investigation should be complete in the coming weeks.

“Right now, we can’t say what started the fire,” he added. “The investigation is underway.”

Hensley said the burn victims and the others in the house at the time of the fire “are very lucky to be alive.”
“This is a very sad event,” Hensley added. “I ask everyone to keep them in your prayers.”

The sheriff also praised the deputies, firefighters, emergency medical responders and others for their efforts to battle the blaze and assist the victims.

“They all did an outstanding job,” he added.

Hensley said local organizations and churches have offered assistance to the victims. The American Red Cross and CHIPs have also assisted the victims. Of the 11 individuals in the home at the time of the fire, only four were permanent residents, according to Hensley. The others were relatives or friends visiting the residence.

A bank account for monetary donations to the victims has been established at the Erwin Bank of Tennessee branch, Hensley said. Those wishing to make a donation by check should make the check payable to “Unicoi County Board of Education – Butler Account.”