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CFD still investigating fatal house fire
85-year-old resident perished in blaze

COVINGTON - Covington Fire Department officials say they are still investigating the cause of the Saturday morning fire that took the life of an 85-year-old man. The fire-related death marked the first in 22 years for the CFD.

The body of Aubry Sego Whelchel was found near his recliner in a room he used as a den in the left front of his house at 1193 College Ave. CFD Capt. Rob Christopher said they are awaiting a report from the coroner on the exact cause of death.

Christopher said investigators believe there was a fire going in the fireplace at the time of the blaze, but have not ruled that it was the cause of the fire that destroyed the brick home.

"It was fully involved when we got there," Christopher said, adding that it took almost an hour to put the fire out. "There was a heavy fire load. The house was full of various personal items, magazines and books."

Christopher said the fire damage was so great that investigators have been unable to conclude whether or not Whelchel had working smoke detectors.

"There haven't been any located, but we're just not sure yet," he said.

Christopher reminded citizens that if they didn't do so when the time changed recently, they should check their smoke detectors to make sure they are in working order.

"And if they need a smoke detector, they should contact us and let us know," he said. The non-emergency number for the CFD is 770-385-2100.

He also cautioned that special care should be taken when using alternative heat sources - space heaters, electric blankets, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.

"Make sure everything is in good working order and if it's not, get it repaired or replace it," he said.

Never go to sleep with a heater on that doesn't have an automatic shut-off device on it, he said, and he recommended that fires should be extinguished in wood-burning stoves and fireplaces before going to bed.

Christopher said chimneys should be inspected annually by a certified inspector from an installation or chimney sweep company, preferably before a fire is built for the first time each season.

"When a flue is not cleaned properly, it gets a creosote build-up on the sides of the flue wall," he explained. "The fireplace heats up that creosote and it can ignite."

He said metal fabricating within the chimney can also be damaged and can cause problems with the wood frame around it.

Also, for those who use gas logs, Christopher recommends a carbon monoxide detector in the home and that the gas lines leading to the fire place be inspected.

"Have it inspected once a year," he reiterated.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.