Firefighters didn't search building for "safety reasons" - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Firefighters didn't search building for "safety reasons"

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. Then as the building was being torn down last Friday, a body was found, and Monday night, another. The bodies were apparently 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 are now removed.

"Additional debris had to be moved to get to the second body," Albany Assistant Fire Chief James Carwell said. "Last night they removed piece by piece make sure their were no more bodies."

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," Carswell said, and afterwards.

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

But they do know the homeless are other places in Albany, four Albany fires in the past week were blamed on vagrants.

"With the homeless population we have and the severe cold weather we've had, it goes hand in hand that we've had more fires," Carswell said.

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. He recently travelled here from Pennsylvania. Authorities are still trying to notify his family.

posted at 6:30 p.m. by dave.d'marko@walb.com