Fire Department overlooks bodies in building fire - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fire Department overlooks bodies in building fire

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January 28, 2003

Albany-- When a vacant building burned on East Oglethorpe two weeks ago, firefighters had no reason to believe anyone was in there. They say it was too risky to look for bodies, until the building was demolished.

Then as the building was being torn down last Friday, a body was found, and then Monday night, another. The bodies were apparently the homeless men who started a fire in the building to stay warm.

It's finally quiet in the alley behind Moree Motors, the burned building is demolished and two bodies now removed. "Obviously no one could survive that fire. Additional debris had to be moved to get to the second body, last night removed piece by piece make sure their were no more bodies," said Assistant. Fire Chief James Carswell.

But why did it take 15 days before the fire department knew for sure? They say safety was an issue, both during the unsurvivable fire, "It was burning tremendously hot."

And afterwards, "We wish could've found earlier, but the safer thing to do was wait until building came down in a controlled environment than put somebody inside, and have somebody injured trying to recover something we didn't know was there," Carswell said.

But they do know the homeless are other places in Albany, since four fires in the past week were blamed on vagrants. "The homeless population and the severe cold weather we've had go in hand that we've had more fires," said Carswell.

With this chapter in the investigation now complete, they say they'll concentrate efforts on educating the homeless about fire safety and trying to stop tragedies like this from happening.

One matter that's yet to be resolved is how the first man found in the rubble died. Unlike Monday's discovery, he was not badly burned. Investigators are still waiting on autopsy results.

We now know he recently travelled here from Pennsylvania, and authorities are still trying to notify his family.

posted at 5:15PM by dave.miller@walb.com