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Firefighter calls mayday while battling fire & autistic man. Both became trapped in Knoxville, TN home.

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Knoxville, Tennessee Firefighter Chris Medley called a mayday after his helmet and facepiece were knocked off by a 25-year-old autistic man he was trying to rescue during a house fire Friday morning. According to Knoxville Fire Department Captain DJ Corcoran, both men became trapped in the bedroom of the burning home in the 3900 block of Deerfield Road in Northwest Knoxville.

(Note: In the story above the reporter’s narration inadvertantly makes it sound as if the firefighter is also autistic. That is not the case.)


Corcoran said that Medley went through the front door of the burning home, up the stairs, and found the victim in a back bedroom. Corcoran said the victim became “combative with the firefighter (Medley). He knocked the firefighter’s mask and helmet off” during the struggle. The advancing fire trapped the men, and Medley had to issue a “mayday” call for help.

Engine 17’s captain led other firefighters in the attack to fight the fire back enough so that Medley and the victim could escape. Both Medley and the victim suffered burns and smoke inhalation.

The victim has been transferred to Vanderbilt Medical Center to be treated for 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 15% of his body. Medley suffered minor burns to his neck and ears. He remains at UT Medical Center, is alert and in stable condition, and is expected to be released in a day or so.


Comments - Add Yours

  • Lance

    I am glad they both made it out. Incidents’ like this one are rarely thought of when we are training on S&R and RIT/RIC drills, combative or frantic victims. All to often we train for a downed fireman and package them as they lie on the floor motionless or sometimes helping the rescuers out. during drills. We should keep in mind, while this is good training, not all rescues are going to have an unconscious/ motionless victim. You are bringing something into that incident that they don’t have… Air. All I am suggesting, and feel free to share your two cents, is don’t get complacent in training, be ready for those curve balls victims may throw in your face. Be combat ready and proficient enough to come up with a viable solution for the problem handed to you. Remember, keep yourself safe, your crew safe, and victim safe. Take care and stay safe!

  • Fire21

    OK, I have to admit to a lot of naiveté here. There is so much awareness of autism, but I’d never thought about how they might react in a fire or rescue situation. This certainly raised my eyebrows and attention! Hope both of them recover quickly and completely. Nice job saving them, Knoxville.

  • EastCoastLt.

    No hood?

  • on the job

    I agree with FIRE21 something to think about,…Nice job & Good luck to the firefighter and victim.

  • E1 LT

    Chinstrap was broken by the victim as well?

  • E R Woods

    I would like to sent my heart felt thinks a gratitude to Fire Fighter Chris Medley, For saving my son from my burning home. Without men like Chris my son would have never made it out of that house. Fire fighter medley is a hero that should be honored for the risk he took. He was the first one that came to ask of anyone was in the house and when he was told that my son that is autistic was in the house he went in twice with no equipment and no regard for his on safety. I am so sorry he was hurt and I hope and pray he is alright now. My son is still in the ICU at Vanderbilt but getting some better. Without you Chis he would have lost his life in that house. THANK YOU; With All My Heart. MS. Woods and family

    • dave statter

      Our best to your son for a rapid recovery. Thank you for taking the time to send this.

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