Smoking material caused deadly Danville house fire

Death marks first fire fatality of the year


DANVILLE, Va. – Improperly discarded smoking material caused a deadly fire early Saturday morning in Danville, according to the fire marshal's office.

The Fire Marshal's Office made the announcement Wednesday and says the identification of the victim is waiting confirmation from the medical examiner's office.

A Danville man is dead after an early morning house fire.

Danville firefighters responded to 185 Sunset Drive around 4:15 a.m. Saturday and found the home fully engulfed.

Because the fire was so intense, firefighters were not able to immediately go in to the home but were advised that the person who lives in the home may be inside.

Once firefighters were able to go in, they found one person dead.

Danville Fire Marshal Richie Guill only described the victim as man.

According to Guill, the man was the only person who lived in the home and was the only person inside the home when the fire broke out.

Guill would not say where in the home the body was found.

The cause of the fire and point of origin were still under investigation Saturday afternoon.

The Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Office's arson K9 was brought in to assist investigators.

"We called (the dog) in just to go over the scene and right now we're not releasing anything on any findings," Guill said.

The dog initially sniffed around the front of the home, then was quickly taken inside of the home by his handler.

The dog and handler spent about 10 minutes out of sight in what appeared to be the back left corner of the home.

After coming out of the home, the dog then went down behind the home, disappearing out of sight for about a minute, and then came back to the front of the home and left the scene shortly after.

Betty Ware lives directly across the street from the home.

The blaze woke her up.

"When I looked out the window, (my neighbor's) house was in full flames," Ware recalled.

"The roof was just blazing. I came out on the front porch and asked somebody if (the man who lived in the home) was in the house. They said they didn't know."

She said the sight of the home on fire was scary.

"It was real scary, because you never know which way that fire's going to go," Ware said.

She knew the victim well and described him as a very nice man.

"He never gave anybody any trouble," Ware said. "I have carried him to the hospital to see his brother. He was real nice."

While many details about the fire remained unknown Saturday afternoon, Ware said she's hopeful that if foul play was involved the police department will be able to catch whoever is responsible.

"I hope we have a good police chief now. We deserve one. We haven't had a good one in a long time, but (the new chief) seems to be getting out and trying to help the city," Ware said.

Around a dozen family members were on scene for about an hour late Saturday morning. 

They declined to be interviewed.

Some of the family members were visibly emotional.

The fatal fire is the first for the city in 2018 and was the third fire in the city in about six hours.

Just after 10 p.m. Friday, firefighters responded to 234 Sylvan Road and found the home engulfed in flames.

The home's sole resident had gotten out safely.

According to the fire department, the power cord of a portable space heater had shorted out and caught fire.

An hour and 45 minutes after arriving on scene, firefighters were called to 531 First Street for a reported fire.

Firefighters arrived to find smoke and flames coming from the basement.

The residents got out safely and are being assisted by the Red Cross.

The fire was determined to have been started accidentally by an open flame.

Guill said three fires in such a short period of time takes a toll on the department.

When the call came in about the fire on First Street, off-duty firefighters were called in to help.

"We get some off-duty firefighters to come in and man some of our reserve trucks so that they can answer other calls," Guill said.

That does not happen often.

"That's uncommon. It's uncommon to have two working structure (fires) in the city at the same time and it's really uncommon to have three (fires) within that short of a period of time."

The medical examiner's office in Roanoke will perform an autopsy on the victim from the fatal fire to determine a cause of death and the person's identity.  

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