Nashville fire rescue disputed - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

UPDATE: Nashville fire rescue disputed

Posted: Updated:
It happened around 11 a.m. just north of Nashville at 2000 Exum Road. It happened around 11 a.m. just north of Nashville at 2000 Exum Road.
NASHVILLE, N.C. -

A civil air patrol officer is now taking the blame for the confusion surrounding a house fire rescue.

9 on your side was the first to bring you the story.

Cadet Emily Watson's actions were called into question after Officer David Nelson sent out a news release crediting her with saving three people from a burning house in Nashville.

The homeowner's daughter told us it never happened but Nelson provided us with the 9-1-1 call he says the cadet made.

In an email, Officer Nelson says he is the one responsible for notifying the media after Watson posted a photo of the fire on her Facebook page. Nelson tells us Watson was not boastful or trying to seek recognition for the rescue. In hindsight, he says the release he sent should be restated that she "helped" save the people in the house.

While it is still unclear whether Watson physically went into the house, Nelson says he is still proud of her actions. However characterized, he says she saw an emergency and responded appropriately.

The full email is below:

It has been asserted that Civil Air Patrol Cadet Emily Watson fabricated elements of her involvement dealing with a house fire in Nash County.  The notification of the media, following her posting of a photograph on Face Book, was exclusively done by myself.  Her posting was not boastful or seeking aggrandizement and my notifications sought an acknowledgement for this young woman and her character which has subsequently been called into question.  

At 1:16 it appears that Mr. Brian Murray re-enters the house, by 1:30 he is back with the caller.  At 1:42 it's known that there are two people still in the house and their location is reported at 1:47.  At 1:52 she appears to say "I've found them." and at 1:55 she asks a woman "is everybody out, ma'am?" and relays that to the dispatcher.  At 2:14 she starts yelling for everyone to "go across the street" and at 2:22 someone starts repeatedly yelling "No".  At 2:30 she informs the dispatcher that "something just collapsed."  At 2:59 she reports "there's an elderly woman here, I think she's having trouble breathing.... She says she's alright." At 3:24 she acknowledges the dispatcher's instructions and says " I'll guide the emergency crews into the area."

All in all, I remain extremely proud of her actions - however characterized: she saw an emergency and responded appropriately, alerted 911, ensured that all were out of the structure and kept one from going back in, kept bystanders away from the danger, informed dispatchers of the condition of the parties and the scene, and left upon instructions to guide help in.  Substantial credit and acknowledgement of the actions clearly should go to the neighbor (the third party in the house) believed to be Gary Baker and the men and women who responded from the various fire agencies.

C/Capt Watson, neither trained nor equipped as a firefighter, did exactly what she should do in this situation, but more than many would.  Whether she entered the structure or not from 1:40 to 1:55 seems to be the question.  She asserted that she did enter the kitchen area by the back door and that smoke and flame were present in the room, we cannot know that at this point.  If her presence hastened their exit or the fire department's response is a question which is unanswerable at this point.

The notification I sent, with the additional information available now, clearly should be restated that she helped save the lives and I deeply regret the absence of that adverb.  That should not, however, detract from the fact that this cadet acted unhesitatingly and properly to ensure all people were out of the house in a situation where lives were at stake.  

The assertion by Mrs. Murray's daughter, who was not on scene, that cadet Watson played no role in this situation, furthered by denials of knowledge by the Nashville Fire Chief, have deeply affected and discouraged us.  She did intervene and her actions deserve acknowledgement, as do the actions of the neighbor.  There seems to be enough bad news right now, particularly regarding 19-year-olds, that this should be revisited and mitigated.

Sincerely,

David Nelson 

--PREVIOUS STORY--

A bizarre story out of Nash County.

A young cadet's actions were called into question after a member of the Civil Air Patrol sent out a news release crediting her with saving three people from a burning house.

9 On Your Side began investigating after the homeowner's daughter called to tell us it never happened.

It appears the whole thing was blown out of proportion. We talked with Alice Watson. She's the cadet's mother. She tells us her daughter, Emily, was at the scene of the fire but it was never her intent to seek any recognition.

Around 11am Saturday, Nashville firefighters were called to the home on Exum Street.

"Before the first truck got here, we had what I really believe was a smoke explosion. I was pretty close to the building but the witnesses that were further away say it lifted the roof about a foot and came back down," said Fire Chief, Randy Goodbrod.

The home was a total loss but the homeowner and her son got out of the house unharmed. Shortly after it happened, 9 on your side got a news release from the Civil Air Patrol crediting Emily Watson with saving their lives. In the release, Watson, is quoted as saying she got everyone out of the house. But the homeowner's daughter, Karen Letchworth says there's just one problem with that statement.

"I don't really know what to think of it. It really upset us because that's really not what happened," she said.

Letchworth says a neighbor first saw the flames and alerted her mother and brother, who were able to get out of the house on their own.

"We are getting some conflicting reports, I don't know if you can confirm this at all that there was a civil air cadet that came and helped rescue?" asked 9 on your side's Kristen Hunter.

"I'm not aware of that. I just talked to the homeowner. She was able to get out of the structure on her own. So I would say that there was no credible report as far as that goes," said Chief Goodbrod.

But the cadet's mother, Alice Watson, tells us her daughter was there. She tells 9 on your side her daughter was driving by the house, noticed smoke and called 9-1-1. She says her daughter made sure the people inside the house got out okay and waited across the street until firefighters arrived.

Firefighters have not determined the cause of the fire but it does not appear to be suspicious.

As far as the discrepancies about how the family got out of the home, the person who originally sent the press release, Officer David Nelson, did not return Hunter's calls by air time.

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