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Fire guts house

While the only noticeable front exterior damage to Jeff Senzel’s Sanderling Lane home in Herons Pointe subdivision was window-related, a Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 3, fire essentially gutted the house.- Alan Sloan/farragutpress
About 48 hours after his two-story, four-bedroom home along Sanderling Lane was gutted by fire — almost everything inside destroyed except for one room — Jeff Senzel was shedding tears of relief, sadness and gratefulness.

Relief was expressed when discovering this late Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 3, fire, caused by “a space heater” according to Senzel, did not injure his sixth-grade daughter, Madison.

“I was pretty [much] in a panic when I left here Tuesday when I got the phone call,” Senzel said about being informed of the fire by his son, Nick, while working as principal owner of Diamond Baseball, Simcox Academy, West End Avenue.

“When I was in transit I called my daughter ... I didn’t get confirmation that she was there, so I called in a panic to make sure that she wasn’t at the house,” Senzel added.

According to Senzel, his son had been informed of the fire by neighbor Taylor Weebe, a friend of Nick’s.

Calling another neighbor asking about the fire, Senzel said the neighbor responded, “‘I’m in my driveway watching your house burn.’”

Senzel said he finally contacted his daughter before arriving at the fire. “Getting there, I knew both kids were safe ... so we’re all going to be good.”

Helping calm nerves on scene while sharing advice, according to Senzel, was a retired firefighter from California, Denny Wren, who happened to be the father of “Maddie’s friend.”

“He was already there ... that was a comfort,” Senzel said, adding that upon his arrival just after 5 p.m., “The fire was pretty much under control and maybe already out.

“I actually thought it maybe wasn’t as bad … the roof was still on the house.”

However, Senzel said he soon discovered, “They’re going to have to gut the whole house. The structure’s still intact.”

“The fireman told me, ‘five more minutes and your house would have been totally gone,’” added Senzel, also an employee at Y-12 in Oak Ridge.

“I think it turned out there’s a neighbor in the subdivision behind us who saw the smoke coming out the back of the house. ... I don’t know who really called the fire department.”

With the door closed to Nick’s room, “the majority of the stuff in his room was not seriously damaged,” Senzel said.

While Senzel moved in with family friend Jim Hutson, his children moved in separately with other families. “The outpouring of people’s support is incredible,” Senzel said.

Senzel labeled a chance encounter with owners of an available home across from his gutted residence “a blessing from God,” which led to a “6-month rental agreement.”

“The main thing was [to] get a place rented and just get the family back in one location,” Senzel added.

Senzel said he hopes to reconstruct the gutted house’s interior and move back in “like it was brand new,” having spoken to a contractor and insurance adjustor.

Attempts to contact Larry Wilder, Knox County Fire Marshal’s Office, and Rural Metro Fire Department, were unsuccessful.


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