3 Dead, Firefighter Hurt In South Nashville House Fire

Posted at 6:22 AM, Feb 14, 2018

Three women have died following an early-morning fire at a South Nashville recovery house.  

The incident was reported before 6 a.m. Wednesday on Southwood Drive, not far from Murfreesboro Pike. The building housed a local substance rehabilitation program known as Footprints to Recovery not affiliated with the national rehab program of the same name.

According to Metro Nashville police officials, a total of 15 people were in the home at the time of the fire - 12 program residents, two house managers, and a juvenile son of one of the house managers. Eight people were injured, including a Nashville firefighter. Three women later died as a result of their injuries. 

Police identified the women killed in the fire as 22-year-old Kathleen Baird, 36-year-old Tammy Nelson and 35-year-old Elizabeth Lopez.

One of the women in the recovery program last year said the program was her saving grace. She and neighbors were devastated by what happened.

"It is quite a shock," said Ray Dunning

He watched as firefighters rescued several of the people who were inside. Four others, including a child, were listed as non-critical. A firefighter received treatment for a steam burn.

"They were apparently giving CPR as they brought them out. So we were left with the impression that it was smoke inhalation and they would survive," Dunning said. 

Firefighters rescued the victims from the rear upper room of the home, which had been converted to sleep multiple persons.

"Any time a person loses their life, in a situation like that, it's disturbing," Dunning said.

Footprints to Recovery website lists the home as a sober living home for women. It was not a state administered program, therefore, didn't require a license. 

A separate rehab organization named Footprints To Recovery reached out to NewsChannel 5 after the story aired. They said they sent a cease and desist letter regarding their trademarked name. They told us the Southwood home is in no way affiliated with their business.

Detectives have joined the Fire Marshal's Office in its investigation. They said the home did not have smoke detectors or working sprinklers. According to Metro code it would be the landlord's responsibility, Barrett Realty, to ensure the building's smoke detectors were working properly.

They are investigating the fatal fire as possible negligence.

"Several years ago, my wife operated a residential home for the aged here in our building and that was a codes requirement. So I'm not sure how they could get away with not having them," said Dunning.

Later Wednesday afternoon, officials with the Metro Codes Department deemed the house unsafe to live in. The property owner would be required to have working smoke detectors but it would be up to either the property owner or residents to maintain the detectors. It's unclear how property owner Barrett Realty Co. contracted with Footprints to Recovery.

Reports from the scene suggested that one of the victim's was related to a Nashville Firefighter.