Cause of fatal blaze ‘undetermined,’ says state fire marshal report

Fire takes life of man, 77

By Gary Huffenberger -

WILMINGTON — The cause of a fatal fire in Wilmington is classified as undetermined in a State Fire Marshal incident report, but conjecture in the report revolves around a cigarette lighter or lighter fluid.

Ned Hill, 77, died May 14 following a May 11 evening fire that occurred in his residential unit at a senior living apartment building on the 300 block of Prairie Avenue in Wilmington.

Wilmington Fire Chief Andy Mason reported that when his firefighters forced Apartment 303’s door to enter, it was fully charged with smoke and they could not see, according to the incident report. The Ohio State Fire Marshal’s office investigates all fatal fires in Ohio.

Neighbors reported the fire via 911 at 8:32 p.m. Wednesday, May 11.

The fire marshal report indicates Mason reported he talked with Clinton Memorial Hospital ER personnel, who relayed Hill had said something to the effect of trying to light or fill a lighter and the lighter exploded.

The state fire marshal report states it’s unknown what Hill was doing before the fire started.

However, the report goes on to add Hill might have been refilling a lighter, or as an alternative, he may have been smoking and spilled some lighter fluid on himself and an ash or burning ember fell from the cigarette.

A damaged lighter was found at the scene, stated investigators.

“The living room sprinkler head closest to the chair Hill was sitting in, or sat down on, activated and extinguished the fire,” according to the fire marshal report.

Water from that sprinkler head made its way into other apartments on the third floor, as well as the second floor and the lobby of the first floor. Altogether, 14 apartments were vacated due to the water from the sprinkler.

Hill was transported to CMH in Wilmington, then transported via airlift to Miami Valley Hospital’s burn unit.

The property damage loss is estimated at $20,000.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.

Fire takes life of man, 77

By Gary Huffenberger