February 26, 2013

One dead in Dalton condo fire

Rachel Brown
rachelbrown@daltoncitizen.com

— Authorities are investigating how a fatal fire at a condominium in Dalton started Monday afternoon.

The name of the victim, who was in his 70s, wasn’t immediately released. Dalton Fire Department Deputy Chief Gary Baggett said the man who lived at 1523 Ashton Woods Way needed the assistance of a walker, cane or wheelchair to get around. Officials believe the fire started accidentally in the living room where he also had a bed.

“He was a smoker, and his son stated he liked to smoke in bed,” Baggett said. “However, we can’t say for sure that that started the fire. We did take into evidence a lamp and an outlet near the bed that we may need for further examination.”

Baggett said firefighters responded to a call that came in at 3:39 p.m. on Monday from a neighbor who lived next door and found her apartment full of smoke when she returned from work. Rescue workers arrived seven minutes after the call and looked around her apartment but couldn’t find where the fire was until they noticed smoke coming out of an electrical outlet on a wall that adjoined the next apartment.

Baggett said the locked door of the adjoining townhouse was hot, so one team of rescue workers broke it down while a second crew went to another entrance to begin searching for anyone inside. They found the victim in the kitchen with extensive burns.

“There was very little fire discovered over there,” Baggett said. “The fire had actually consumed most of the oxygen in that condo and was pretty much smoldering. However, temperatures did reach at least 1,000 or 1,200 degrees in that apartment.”

There were working smoke detectors, but Baggett said smoke alarms were going off next door, too, and the neighbor who called 911 didn’t know where the fire was coming from. He said the victim’s son lived with him in the condo, but he wasn’t home at the time and had checked on his father only a couple of hours before the fire call.

There was fire damage to the first floor, but it wasn’t immediately visible from outside the front of the building Tuesday morning. The loss is estimated at $30,000.

Neighbors described the man as a quiet person who usually kept to himself in the neighborhood off of Crow Valley Road.

“I’m still in shock,” said Stephanie Queen who has lived in a nearby unit for about 10 years.

Neighbor Quen Stone, who lives about two units down, said she also called 911 when she smelled smoke and couldn’t find where it was coming from.

The fire department and Dalton Police Department are investigating. Baggett said it is standard practice for police to be involved when there is a fatality.