November 3, 2009 9:41:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- A pair of dogs laid lazily in the tall grass along Townsend Road Monday afternoon and another stood alert just inside a thin wire fence.
The hound in the yard barked menacingly at anyone who approached while the charred remains of a mobile home loomed in the background. The roof of the trailer was melted and scorched, and the blackened insides of the structure were visible from the dusty, unpaved road.
The home belonged to an elderly man who died Sunday when the structure caught fire and he was unable to escape. Authorities have not released the identity of the man, only saying he was in his early 70s.
Bell Schoolhouse and East Oktibbeha volunteer fire companies responded Sunday at approximately 5:15 p.m. to the report of a structure fire on Townsend Road, about one-fourth of a mile east of Rockhill Road, said Bell Schoolhouse Volunteer Fire Company Chief Wade Howell.
"When we got there, we had a mobile home that was 80 percent engulfed in fire, and then we had the possibility upon arrival that we had someone in the house," Howell said. "We tried to establish whether or not someone was actually in the house and, as it turned out, they were."
Firefighters extinguished the blaze "down to a minimum" and found the victim, Howell said, then continued put out the fire and other hot spots. The fire was contained and "making no further advancement" after about 10 minutes, he said.
Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt arrived at the scene, just north of Starkville, and pronounced the man dead of smoke inhalation with thermal burns.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Howell said. The Oktibbeha County Sheriff''s Department is assisting in the investigation.