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.
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.”