Augusta house fire claims one life

Saturday, March 22, 2014 11:31 AM
Last updated Sunday, March 23, 2014 10:12 AM
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Less than 24 hours after a fire gutted an Augusta home, killing a 58-year-old man, investigators and neighbors were still looking for answers for what caused the blaze.

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A melted trash can sits in the front yard after a fire at a home on Jenkins Street. Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen said 58-year-old Bruce Williams died in the blaze.   TRAVIS HIGHFIELD/STAFF
A melted trash can sits in the front yard after a fire at a home on Jenkins Street. Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen said 58-year-old Bruce Williams died in the blaze.

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Bruce Williams was killed in the fire at 1691 Jenkins St. on Friday night. A friend who passed by the house and tried to help said that Williams was unable to walk because of a recent stroke.

Beginning about noon Sat­­ur­day, Augusta fire investigator Lt. Neal Brown was shuffling through the charred structure, attempting to pinpoint the fire’s origin and collecting samples to send to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab in Columbus, Ga., for testing.

Brown said he planned on spending most of the day sifting through the debris.

“You just go until you can find a comfortable stopping point,” he said. “It’s going to be a lengthy investigation.”

He said he believes the fire started toward the front of the home.

The home was engulfed in flames when the firefighters arrived about 8:30 p.m. Friday, Brown said.

Four people lived in the house, and three were accounted for when firefighters arrived, Brown said.

Richmond County Coro­ner Mark Bowen said Wil­liams was pronounced dead at the scene just before midnight. An autopsy was scheduled at the GBI crime lab in Atlanta.

Jean McKeone, of Augus­ta, visited the house Satur­day afternoon with a bouquet of flowers. Stepping over a melted plastic trash can, she pinned the handful of carnations, daffodils and peonies to a charred wooden beam on the home’s exterior in remembrance of Williams, whom she considered a friend.

“He was a good old man,” McKeone said. “He helped anybody that he could help and didn’t bother nobody.”

McKeone said she passed by the burning home late Friday and rushed to help Williams. She said she tried to move a couch on the front porch that had caught fire outside his bedroom.

“(The fire) singed the hairs off my arms when I moved the couch,” she said. “It just flamed way up. It went so quick that there was no stopping it.”

McKeone, a former neighbor of Williams, said she talked with him on the other side of his locked bedroom door. Only when firefighters arrived did she cease her efforts.

“It went so quick,” she said. “There was no helping him.… It was devastating.”

Two houses down, 11-year-old Aulani Peart said she looked outside of the window of her aunt’s home and saw overhead power lines on fire.

“That was the first time that I’ve seen something like that,” she said.

Aulani said she and her two cousins rushed outside to film the blaze with their phones and iPods. She said the flashing lights from the fire trucks kept her up most of the night.

“When I woke up this morning, I was sad,” Aulani said. “I was wondering what could have happened, and my mom said there was someone in there and he was a man who couldn’t walk.”

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AutumnLeaves 03/22/14 - 05:34 pm
Dear God in heaven rest his

Dear God in heaven rest his soul in peace and may his loved ones find strength to carry on through this time of grief, I pray.

rmwhitley 03/22/14 - 07:56 pm
God bless

Mr. Williams' soul.

corgimom 03/23/14 - 01:06 pm
All of those old mill homes

All of those old mill homes are firetraps, they are all wood and old and dried out.

They go up in minutes, and they are responsible for a lot of deaths.

Conservative Man
Conservative Man 03/30/14 - 06:39 pm
this was….

…a suspected illegal boarding house….The landlord should be held accountable..

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