Decatur Fatal Fire Caused by Multiple Extension Cords

By Maureen Mespell
By Scott Sarvay
By Max Resnik

August 16, 2011 Updated Aug 16, 2011 at 12:33 PM EDT

DECATUR, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) – Fire investigators say multiple electrical issues contributed to a fire in Decatur last week that killed an older couple in their home.

Decatur's fire chief tells Indiana’s NewsCenter that the older home caught fire because multiple extension cords were plugged into an outlet.

The chief also confirms that there were no working smoke detectors in the home.

74-year-old Claude and 71-year-old Donna West died from smoke inhalation.

Decatur fire crews were called to 720 Elm St. close 2 a.m. Thursday after a neighbor called 911. They arrived to find the home totally engulfed in flames. It took crews about 20 minutes to contain the fire. The outside structure appeared intact, but crews investigating the fire say the majority of the damage could be found inside the home. During their initial investigation, crews were able to determine that the Wests had no working smoke alarm.

Mary Kayser, a witness and neighbor, says she heard the commotion of fire and rescue teams around 4 a.m. Thursday.

“The fire engines and the cops were coming through here, and I just thought holy mackerel, what's going on here? I got out of bed at 4 o'clock, and it was really bad. Smoke was coming all over.”

Chris Fullenkamp lives just a few houses down from the West’s home. He said his family opened their windows the night of the fire to enjoy the cooler evening air. What they smelled around 2 a.m. was that of a burning house.

“My son said it was the neighbors so we ran out thinking it was right next door, and I saw smoke billowing up a couple of houses down. Flames were shooting up probably 14 feet in the air, and it was a mess.”

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