Tammy Alley is fortunate to be alive after she was trapped in her burning home. Alley and a friend struggled desperately to open a back door, which had been screwed shut due to prior damage. David Grace photo.
ROGERSVILLE - Tammy Alley was blistered and bandaged and in a lot of pain Tuesday, but she was also thankful to be alive.
A fire early Tuesday morning nearly took Alley's life and destroyed her home at 158 Austin Mill Road in Rogersville. She also lost all of her possessions.
Alley, 43, survived with severe burns to her face, hands and feet. She told the Times-News Tuesday afternoon she knows she was only seconds from death when a "backdraft" threw flames into her face as she struggled to escape out the back door of her mobile home.
She was asleep about 4 a.m. when a friend who was spending the night heard a crackling sound and got up to investigate.
"It must have been electrical because it started between the couch and the computer table and seemed to be coming from the wall," Alley said. "(The friend) hit it with the fire extinguisher, and it disappeared for a second and then came right back. I got up and was only a few feet from (the friend), but when he opened the front door it just flared up and fire was everywhere.
"I couldn't get out the front door then, and I couldn't even see, so I just ran toward the back door and tried to get out that way."
The back door had been damaged in the past, and there were screws holding it shut. Those screws prevented the door from opening right away as Alley struggled to escape the flames.
At one point a burst of flames hit her in the face. She put her hands over her mouth, and the lower half of her face was protected, but her hands, nose, forehead and ears were severely burned.
She couldn't see, and she couldn't breathe. Her friend was outside pulling on the back door, and she was inside pushing when it finally gave way.
"I just can't believe how fast that place burned," said the friend, who asked to remain anonymous. "Two minutes and it was completely gone. She was right behind me, but when I opened that front door it just fed the fire and it was everywhere instantly.
"I was ripping the back door apart trying to get it open because I knew she didn't have long. It was a narrow escape. As narrow as it gets."
The fire took the life of Alley's 12-week-old puppy, which she'd taken in as a stray recently after it got its head stuck in her fence.
Among her possessions destroyed was a computer that she used for her job. Alley has a serious illness, and the Red Cross arrived to provide her with a voucher to replace her medications.
But she said replacing the computer so she can get back to work will be the hardest thing.
"If (the friend) hadn't heard the crackling and got up to see what it was, I wouldn't be here right now," Alley said. "I just can't believe how fast everything happened. In just a matter of seconds everything I own was gone."
Alley will be staying with friends until she can find a new place. Co-workers and friends were trying to gather together some clothing for her Tuesday afternoon.