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Putnam Fire Calling Fatal Baxter Fire An Accident

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Putnam Fire Calling Fatal Baxter Fire An Accident

Putnam County Fire Chief Jeff Hicks said he believes a house fire that claimed the life of a 79-year-old Baxter resident was an accident.

Hicks said firefighters entered the burning structure through a window and extracted Mildred Wade in just 14 minutes after receiving the initial page. He said he believes this was an accidental kitchen fire that spread and engulfed the house.

“Can’t say enough for the help we got from Baxter,” Hicks said. “They did an awesome job and, again, it’s the example of the auto-aid agreement working. Everybody coming together. But still, you just, you know, if you do everything right and do everything you’re trained to do, tragedy can still strike, and that’s what happened here.”

Hicks said the investigation will continue with the help of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Once that investigation finished, Hicks said the fire will likely be ruled of “undetermined” cause.

Putnam County Fire Department Public Affairs Officer Drew Swink said Wade was transported to Cookeville Regional Medical Center before being transported again toward Vanderbilt Medical Center. Swink said as the patient’s status declined in transit, she was diverted to Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Wilson County campus where she died.

“We feel like it started in the area of the kitchen,” Hicks said. “All of us felt that. Even the guys that were there that night fighting the fire. We just think it was an accidental kitchen fire, is what we’re going to lean toward.”

He said Baxter Fire Department firefighters reaching Walnut Road off of Highway 70 as quickly as they did is a testament to why Automatic Aid agreements were put in place to begin with.

“Baxter was there first,” Hicks said. “Of course, they’re limited on personnel. We were leaving another wreck, the guy that would have responded at the closest station. Of course, we all respond, but the guy that was at the closest station was on his way back, so he was actually closer than he would have been if he’d responded from the station, so he had a better response time. And that’s the crew that went in.”


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