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New Year's Day fire kills 55-year-old man

CONYERS - A 55-year-old man died in a New Year's Day fire near the border between Rockdale and Newton counties.

Deputy Fire Chief Mike Lee with the Rockdale County Fire Department said Tuesday that Neil Johnston died in a fire that started in the home he was renting at 1055 Kinnett Road. Lee said fire investigators believe the fire broke out about noon and was apparently caused by clothes that were either placed too close to or laid over a space heater.

"The deceased had gotten out of bed and appeared to be attempting to leave the structure, and that was as far as he got," Lee said.

Lee said the fire primarily caused damage to the room being used as a bedroom in the one-story wood frame house.

The Rockdale County home is situated near the Newton County line off Ga. Highway 20 South. Lee said the Newton County Fire Department initially responded to the fire and extinguished the blaze because the fire was reported by a neighbor, whose residence is in Newton County.

"The people behind the house, who live in Newton County proper, made the phone call, so it went to Newton County and Newton County Fire Department responded and did the fire attack," Lee said. "They contacted us when they figured out it was not in their territory."