The men, both neighbors at The Landings, were attempting to rescue another woman from that same apartment when the victim’s oxygen tank exploded.
The deceased is Pauline Beatrice Sweet, 71, Apt. H-5.
The second victim from that apartment, Clayton Housewright, 68, also of Apt. H-5, was initially transported to Holston Valley Medical Center, where he was then reportedly flown to an unidentified burn center.
The cause of the fire hadn’t been identified as of Sunday evening.
Church Hill firefighters responded to the apartments on Silver Lake Road around 1:30 p.m. for a fire that engulfed two apartments on the end of Building H.
The fire burned a ground-level apartment where Sweet and Housewright lived and the second-story apartment above it on one end of Building H.
“William Queen and Gary Meade, both residents of the Landings, are heroes,” Church Hill Police Chief Mark Johnson said. “Both are credited with getting Housewright out of the apartment. They both risked their own lives trying to get Sweet and Housewright out of the apartment.
“They got Housewright out and were trying to get Sweet out when Sweet’s oxygen tank exploded and intensified the heat and blaze. Both were temporarily overcome by heat and smoke.”
Two other victims were transported to HVMC via Church Hill EMS for non-life threatening injuries. A female occupant of the upstairs apartment reportedly jumped from her second-story balcony to escape the fire and was injured by the fall.
According to Church Hill Fire Chief David Wood, the third injured person was from an adjacent apartment.
Firefighters knocked down the flames within a half-hour.
Johnson said in a press release that the building burned fast.
A reporter from the Times-News arrived on the scene 10 minutes after the fire was dispatched, and the roof above the second-story apartment had already collapsed.
Adjacent apartments suffered some damage, but the entire Building H was evacuated. Power was cut off from the entire building during the fire fighting operation.
A total of nine apartments are currently uninhabitable due to the fire. Five homeless families are staying with family members, and four homeless families are being housed by the Red Cross.
Firefighters from Mount Carmel and Carters Valley assisted at the scene, as did the Church Hill Rescue Squad.