CHURCH HILL — Although she suffered serious burns on 50 percent of her body, a Hawkins County woman who lived just north of Church Hill managed to escape her burning home early Saturday morning and make it to a neighbor’s house.
Firefighters don’t know yet how the fire started, but they have deduced that the victim Etta Fultz, 126 Reesor Hollow Road, attempted to extinguish the fire with a garden hose. Whether the burns occurred before or after that attempt to put the fire out is unknown.
Around 6:20 a.m. Saturday, the Carters Valley Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to heavy smoke coming from the Reesor Hollow Road area north of Church Hill near Carters Valley Elementary School.
Upon their arrival, firefighters found a small house where Fultz had resided fully engulfed in flames.
“During our fire attack a neighbor came down and told us that the lady who lived there (Fultz) was at their house and she had been burnt severely,” CVVFD Chief Mike Yates said. “We sent the ambulance on scene up to that residence and they transported her to Holston Valley (Medical Center). She was later transferred to the burn center at Vanderbilt University.
“She had second or third degree burns over 50 percent of her body.”
For more than two hours after extinguishing the blaze firefighters conducted a body recovery operation in the rubble based on information that a small child was staying with Fultz at the time. Fultz’s injuries were so severe that neither fire nor police officials were able to talk to her during that search.
Eventually Yates made contact with a relative who confirmed — much to the relief of the firefighters — that there hadn’t been a child with Fultz that night.
Yates said the home was a total loss, and the state fire marshal is expected to inspect the residence Monday in hopes of determining a cause for the fire.
Further information on Fultz’s condition was unavailable as of Sunday evening.