Four Tennessee Firefighters Threatened With Gun

Updated: 05-26-2006 03:07:30 PM

Courtesy of The Chattanoogan

The lives of four Chattanooga firefighters were threatened Thursday night, but it wasn't from a blazing inferno. The incident began when they were called to an apartment fire at River Hills Manor Apartments at 2627 Hixson Pike around 7:30 p.m.

Some Chattanooga police officers were already on the scene. They located the fire in Apartment 267 and tried to put the fire out themselves using portable fire extinguishers, but they were unsuccessful.

Chattanooga firefighters arrived moments later. While some firefighters worked to extinguish the fire, others made their way through the two-story building to evacuate the residents in all 131 apartment units.

One resident told four firefighters with Quint 10 and Quint 12 that he was not going to leave his apartment. With smoke clearly visible in the hallway, and the smoke alarm wailing in the background, the firefighters explained to the man that he needed to leave temporarily for his own safety.

The man then brandished a handgun and threatened to shoot all four firefighters.

The firefighters backed away and called for assistance from Chattanooga police. Police Officer Brian Blumenberg quickly responded and approached the man with his own handgun. Pointing his gun at the suspect, the officer ordered the man to face the wall and when he did, the officer reached around the suspect and grabbed the gun from the man's belt. The suspect, identified as Woods Payne, 65, was handcuffed and transported to the county jail for booking. Officer Blumenberg said Payne would be charged with four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The firefighters were able to contain the blaze to the one apartment unit. The dollar loss was estimated at $35,000. The residents, Randall and Angelia Reed, were reportedly not home at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported. The Red Cross was called in to provide assistance to the victims.

The cause of the fire is undetermined and under investigation.