COVINGTON - A fatal fire occurred in the early morning hours Sunday when a body was found at 316 Elks Club Road in the burned debris of the home, according to Deputy Fire Chief Tim Smith of the Newton County Fire Service.
Smith said a neighbor summoned the fire department to the scene around 1 a.m., telling the 911 dispatcher that flames were appearing from the roof.
Smith said when firefighters arrived, the fire was fully involved, already having burned through the roof and setting nearby trees aflame.
The investigation into the fire was not complete at press time Monday. Investigators believe they know the identity of the person who was killed but are withholding it and the official cause of death pending the results of an autopsy.
"We've listed it as accidental. We think the subject fell asleep while smoking, and the fire started in the living room of the house. It looks like he woke up and tried to exit the house, but couldn't get out," he said, adding that the man's body was found about 3 feet from the front door.
The 2,500-square-foot, single-story house had no smoke alarms, which might have alerted the man in time to escape the burning home. Moved to the Elks Club Road site about 12 years ago, the home was originally built in Putnam County in 1855.
Smith said it took approximately an hour to bring the fire under control and the house and contents were a total loss. He estimated the house cost about $300,000 and there was approximately $25,000 worth of contents lost.
Smith pointed out that there was a fatality due to another accidental fire off Ga. Highway 212 at the end of 2007 and said that house did not have any working smoke detectors, either.
"An early warning device is something that needs to be in every house," Smith cautioned. "If there's anyone who does not have smoke detectors, they can come by the fire department at 11545 Covington Bypass, or call us at 770-784-2116 and we'll be more than happy to give them a smoke detector and come out and install it. Our main goal here is to save lives and protect property."
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.