Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Fatal fire reconstructed




By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MILFORD — Charles Munro could have gone to the Milford fire department and gotten a free battery for his smoke detector. But when firefighters arrived at his Milford apartment this weekend, they found Mr. Munro dead on the bathroom floor and an operational smoke detector with no battery in it.

        The death of the 56-year-old man also served as a cautionary tale for another reason, Milford Fire Chief John Cooper said Monday.

        Preliminary findings indicate a possible cause of the fire: careless smoking.

        The fire caused $35,000 in damage to the apartment, and smoke and water damage to a business, Jamboree Sports & Embroidery, below Mr. Munro's apartment.

        “Number one, the smoke detector thing, we'll give you a free battery in Milford, and most communities will,” Chief Cooper said. “It's important to keep those things working and maintained.”

        Many local fire departments also make available smoke detectors for free or below store prices.

        Mr. Munro, who lived alone in a small two-room apartment in the 700 block of Lila Avenue, apparently died of smoke inhalation, ac cording to Darrell Hawkins, an investigator in the Clermont County coroner's office.

        Chief Cooper said smoking is suspected because the burn pattern started on the floor beside the living-room couch, where there were coffee cups with cigarettes butts in them. Firefighters found no ash trays.

        Papers and a plastic coffee table also could have caught fire and burned quickly, but because Mr. Munro lived alone, it might not be possible to piece together exactly what happened, Chief Cooper said. Mr. Munro had been living there about seven months.

        “We're not sure, there could be a number of things, he could have fallen asleep,” the chief said.

        Mr. Munro might have fallen asleep while smoking, then awoke and went to the bathroom to escape the smoke.

        Steve Bates, owner of Jamboree, said Monday he smelled smoke, called the fire department, then went upstairs to see “smoke was rolling out of the apartment,” he said.

        His business was closed Monday due to smoke damage and would remain closed for several days, he said.

        There was no record of prior fire incidents in the residence, Chief Cooper said.

        “It's just, think about when they're smoking,” Chief Cooper said of the lesson from the fire. “And try to at least use an ash tray.”

       



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