True neighbors emerge as two Farragut homes are ravaged by fire

Brixworth duo risk lives to save family members; dogs saved

Despite heroic efforts from nearby neighbors, a fire destroyed a Brixworth subdivision home in Farragut last week.

The home, located at 11918 Farmhouse Drive just off Turkey Creek Road, caught fire Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 3, and suffered extensive damage.

The residence belongs to Wade and Jennifer Cornelius.

Although no family members were home at the time of the blaze, two dogs were saved by neighbors.

The fire was reported just after 3 p.m., according to Jeff Bagwell, public information officer with Rural/Metro Fire Department, which responded to the call.

Neighbor Randall Gore of Lake Vista Lane, in his home along a cul-de-sac located nearby, saw the smoke from an upstairs bedroom, as did his wife, Nicole, and son, Kennedy.

“That’s how we noticed it, and realized [the house] was on fire,” Gore said.

The three drove to the scene, arriving before Rural/Metro firefighters, and saw the front door was “wide open,” Gore said.

Overhearing that a resident might be inside, Gore did not hesitate to enter the burning home, joining another neighbor who also had seen the flames and was already inside.

“We looked for a fire extinguisher and found one under the sink,” Gore said. “We yelled up [the] stairs, looking [for whomever might be in there].”

Gore said he and the other neighbor quickly found fire and smoke emerging from a door that led to an upper portion of the house, where it is believed the fire began.

“The door had a big hole in it, and we used the [fire extinguisher] hose on the fire and sprayed it, but it didn’t do a thing,” Gore recalled. “It stared to get really smoky in the house, and we tried to find another fire extinguisher.”

In the meantime, yet another neighbor knew the passcode for the Cornelius’ garage and opened it.

The family’s two dogs were inside the garage, and Gore said his wife and son helped pull them to safety. It turned out “nobody was home but the dogs,” Gore said.

The family came home while firefighters were working to contain the blaze.

“It was just horrible, the family was there crying,” Gore said. “I felt really bad for [them]. I think [they] had only been here for [about] two years.

“It made me think about how you just need to be very cautious.”

Gore said he overheard speculation the fire might have started in a gas line, which was connected to the home’s HVAC unit.

“If that’s true, that was pretty scary — it could have exploded at any time,” Gore said.

Determining the cause and origin of the fire was the next step. Investigators Randy Wilson and Billy Winship and Detective Aaron Allen of Knox County Sheriff’s Office Fire Investigation Unit visited the scene early Thursday morning, Jan. 4.

Bagwell said extinguishing the fire was not hampered by the region’s unusually frigid temperatures.

After seeing the “heavy fire at the rear and the roof,” Bagwell said Rural/Metro’s aerial device was brought in to drop water on the flames from above.

He said the process was able to “drive the fire back down,” and cooled what is believed to be the point of origin, so firefighters could enter the house and fight it from the inside.

However, over the roughly four hours Rural Metro fought and eventually extinguished the fire, water runoff froze on the street in front of the house.

He said Town of Farragut’s Public Works department “did an outstanding job” salting the roadways afterward.

As of late last week, Bagwell said investigators had narrowed down the fire’s origin to the attic, and had three possible causes: an electric light, an HVAC fueled by natural gas or a hoverboard.

“The Hoverboard was not plugged in,” said Bagwell, but added that moisture interacting with the battery in some way might have been the culprit.