Chief: Cause of Springfield fatal house fire may never be known

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The cause of the fatal Wiley Ave. fire might not ever be known because of the damage done to the house, according to Springfield Fire Rescue Division Chief Brian Miller.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

It could be weeks before the identities of two people who died in a house fire in Springfield on Sunday morning are known, officials said.

Springfield Fire Rescue Division Chief Brian Miller said it could take weeks before officials at the coroner’s office are able to name the victims because their remains were badly burned in the fire.

“Fingerprints would be the fastest. You’re probably looking at two weeks if it’s dental records and at about two months if it has to be DNA,” Miller said.

The fire took place in a home in the 800 block of Wiley Avenue. Firefighters raced to the scene when contacted, Miller said, but by the time they got there the house was already fully engulfed. Miller said when crews approached the house with hoses, the house collapsed.

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According to dispatch logs, the first 911 call came in at 1:46 a.m. and crews arrived on scene at 1:53 a.m. Seven calls came into dispatch.

“Yes, the house is on fire — it’s in full flames,” one caller said, “It’s awful smoky out here and it smells like something is burning big time,” said another.

Callers were also concerned about a nearby car catching on fire and exploding.

There was a possible delay in notification of the fire, Miller said, and crews were forced to fight the fire defensively. Miller said it’s unclear how long the fire was burning before the first 911 call was received.

“The faster that somebody can call 911, the faster our response,” he said.

Neighbor Janae Watkins said she saw smoke when she returned home overnight but didn’t call 911.

“I wish I would’ve called or something but I didn’t know exactly what was on fire,” she said. “I feel so bad that they lost their life.”

Miller referenced national statistics that average 60 seconds for a call to come into dispatch and be assessed, 80 seconds for crews to get ready to head out the door and then travel time. Wiley Avenue is a six-minute drive from Station No. 1.

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Miller said one body was found around 7:30 a.m. at the bottom of the home’s steps and the other around 4 p.m. in the basement after the living room floor collapsed.

Miller said because the house was so damaged, the reason behind the fire might never be known. Part of that investigation will include trying to determine if the home had working smoke detectors.

Columbia Gas of Ohio Communications Manager Dave Rau said the utility company is assisting with the investigation of the fire and crews tested lines in the area

The evidence they have found points to gas lines not being the cause of the fire, Rau said.

“After completing testing, Columbia Gas is confident that our lines were not the cause of the fire,” Rau said. “Our meter and the other above-ground portion of our gas line were severely damaged by the fire. However, we were able to test the underground portion of the lines and they showed no leaks.”

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A gas meter located in the front of the house was severely damaged from the flames, and although a gas line may not have caused the fire, it may have helped to fuel it, according to Miller.

“I suspect that the fire damaged the gas meter, and gas began leaking into the home and feeding the fire,” Miller said.

Miller said it’s been a couple years since the city has seen a fatal house fire.

The Montgomery County Coroner’s office is working to identify these latest victims.

The fire division just swore in eight new firefighters last week, and Miller said many of their first shifts were on the day of this double fatal fire.

A wrecking company tore down the remainder of the house after crews left the scene on Sunday and will remove its foundation, fill the lot and seed it to protect people in the neighborhood from any possible injury.

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