Wednesday, February 26 2014, 07:05 PM EST
Erlanger Nurse Averts Potential Tragedy, Patient Charged With Arson
A Chattanooga man, a patient at the Erlanger emergency room, has been arrested for setting a fire in the hospital early Friday morning.
Firefighters got the call to the Erlanger Medical Center just after midnight. Battalion Chief Lesley Morgan said the small fire was in Room 28 in the ER section. He said a staff nurse, who hasn't been identified, was walking by the room when he smelled smoke. When he walked in the room to investigate he saw the ceiling tiles above the patient’s bed were turning black. The nurse grabbed a portable fire extinguisher, reached up above the ceiling tiles and found a smoldering sweatshirt that was partially on fire.
Chief Morgan said the nurse pulled the sweatshirt down and finished extinguishing the flames with the fire extinguisher. While that was happening, other nurses quickly moved the patients in the immediate area away from the fire. No injuries were reported, thanks to the quick actions of the Erlanger nurse, who hasn't been identified.
Lt. Henry McElvain with the Fire Investigation Division said the fire was deliberately set. A hospital employee reported that the patient, Jimmy Maxwell, 33, was smoking a cigarette in his room. When she told him that he couldn’t smoke, he became angry. While no one was watching, he apparently took off his sweatshirt, placed it above the ceiling tiles over his bed, and set the shirt on fire. After the fire was extinguished, two deputies with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department questioned Maxwell. Maxwell, now shirtless denied setting the fire, but officers found a cigarette lighter in the his boxer shorts.
Maxwell was charged with aggravated arson and reckless endangerment. Lt. McElvain said the charge was upgraded to aggravated arson because Mr. Maxwell endangered the lives of 32 patients and 28 staff who were in the ER at the time. After being processed at the county jail, Maxwell was expected to be transported to the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute for observation.