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3 Killed in Tenn. Apartment Fire

December 9, 1999

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A fire that killed three people in an apartment building for retirees was accidentally started by one of the residents when she threw out hot cigarette ashes, authorities said today.

``She put some cigarette ashes into a plastic bag, and went to the restroom,″ Fire Chief Buck Dozier said. ``She came back and the bag was on fire. It caught the room on fire.″

The woman, Katherine Triggs, tried unsuccessfully to put out the fire with a pan of water, and turned a couch over on top of it. The fire was contained her apartment, but smoke billowed throughout the three-story building.

Firefighters had to carry many of the elderly residents who couldn’t get out on their own.

The three victims died from smoke inhalation, Dozier said. They were identified as Linda Waldron, 89; William Underhill, 96; and Ralph Humphreys, 89.

Firefighters evacuated about 50 residents from Sycamore Terrace Apartments. Five residents were taken to hospitals, including one in critical condition. One of the five was Ms. Triggs, who was treated and released.

``It feels lucky that there weren’t more fatalities,″ Dozier said. ``It was a situation where there was heavy smoke and a lot of elderly people who were not very mobile. The smoke alarms did work, but many of these people couldn’t get out on their own.″

Dozier said some residents on the first and third floors might be able to return to their apartments, depending on smoke conditions. But he said other accommodations would be made for all residents on the second floor.

The building has 120 apartments and 144 residents.

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