CENTERBURG — A fire which officials say appears to have been set, swept through a home south of Centerburg late Thursday night, leaving behind a burned out shell, and the body of a person whose identity had not been released as of press time today.
Knox County Sheriff David Barber and an investigator from the Division of State Fire Marshal remained at the scene of the fire into the early hours this morning. Barber said he was called to the scene early-on. “I was notified that there was a potential that someone was in the fire,” Barber said.
Investigators plan to return to the scene later today to continue sifting through the debris to determine the source and cause of the fire. The investigation is being handled jointly by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Knox County Coroner and the Knox County Sheriffs Office.
Central Ohio Joint Fire District Chief Joe Porter said his department was dispatched to the scene at 10:24 p.m. after multiple 9-1-1 calls reported the house was fully involved with fire.
Upon their arrival, fire crews from the COJFD and four other mutual aid departments quickly laid over 1,500 feet of hose from the nearest hydrant to begin spraying water and foam on the house, in a defensive effort to attack the blaze. “The building was burning from top to bottom,” Porter said of the two-story home.
Barber said the home is owned by Deanna Hurst, who lived there with two of her three children. On the Knox County auditor’s Web site, the home is listed as being owned by Jeffrey and Deanna Hurst. After finding two vehicles in the driveway of the burning home, fire crews immediately began trying to verify the whereabouts of the occupants.
Porter said the location of four of the family members had been determined by around 1 a.m. when the fire marshal investigator arrived and taped off the remains of the home. Knox County Coroner Jennifer Ogle was also called to the scene.
A COJFD engine was moved into place to use the large light tower on top to illuminate the scene for investigators. Around 3 a.m., Porter verified that the remains of one person had been discovered about 10 feet inside the home near the garage entrance. Barber said later this morning the body was that of an adult male, but pending positive identification, no name was released.
Ogle ordered the body transported to the Licking County Coroner’s Office for an autopsy.
Barber said the couple’s three children were not at home at the time of the blaze.
Family members of the homeowners were at the fire scene throughout most of the night, speaking with investigators, and comforting each other. When asked about a cause, Porter said the fire appeared to be incendiary in nature. He also stated it was believed only one person was in the home at the time of the fire.
The Red Cross is assisting the family with shelter and was on-site last night providing water and snacks to the firefighters.
Barber said an autopsy will be conducted on the remains later today in Licking County. “After the autopsy we will be able to release the name,” Barber said of the deceased.
The investigation later today will focus on two areas according to Barber. “We will be looking to find out the cause and origin of the fire, and the cause of death and positive identification of the deceased,” he explained.
“The fire marshal’s office will be processing the scene which will include looking for cause and origin,” the sheriff said. “My detective division will be working with the state fire marshal’s office and Dr. Ogle.”