Academy Crossing fire started in living room; wiring being investigated

January 14, 2010 10:45:00 AM

Tim Pratt -


STARKVILLE -- Fire investigators met Wednesday in Starkville to try to determine what caused the deadly Dec. 28 blaze at Academy Crossing Apartments, but the gathering yielded no definitive results.  


Contacted Wednesday evening, Starkville Fire Chief Rodger Mann said there has been "no change on the fire situation." Mann and State Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Rick Davis earlier this week said investigators are looking at "everything" in Apartment E7, where the blaze began, from items collected there to witness statements to burn patterns.  


Part of the investigation is focusing on wiring in the apartment, Mann and Davis said, while State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney told The Clarion-Ledger Monday a smoldering cigarette left on a chair could be the cause. According to Mann, investigators have narrowed the starting point of the fire down to a 50-square-foot area of the living room. 


Monday marked two weeks since the fire that killed India Williams, 25, and her three children, Jacorian Vasser, 6, Richard Vasser Jr., 5, and Kamarion Williams, 2; Castella Maria Bell, 18, and her three children, Ta''Nayia Bell, 4, Jayvion Bell, 3, and Sumaya Bell, 6 months; and Lakesha Gillespie, 20. 


Six of the victims'' bodies were found in a bedroom in the back of the apartment, two were in a bathroom and one was in the kitchen. The apartment had no back door. 


Since autopsies performed on India Williams, Castella Bell and Gillespie revealed the three died of smoke inhalation, Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt didn''t order autopsies on the six children. 


According to Mann, it is common for fire investigations to last weeks or months at a time. 


" We''ve had other fires that took a lot longer to figure out," Mann said Monday. "We have fires where the investigation goes on and on and on, and the public, you kind of forget about it because it was no major deal, but we still work on them. We''re not working this fire any different than any other fire. We just won''t take ''No'' for an answer as a cause. This is not uncommon for us at all to take this long." 




Other winter fires 


Firefighters in the Starkville area have stayed busy this winter. Last week, a fire west of Starkville resulted in the loss of a trailer, though the two men inside were able to escape unharmed. Then, on Tuesday, fire broke out in the kitchen of a unit in Green Tree Apartments on Lynn Lane, about one-half mile from Academy Crossing Apartments. No one was injured in the Tuesday blaze, but three apartments in the building were damaged.  


Firefighters Wednesday morning responded to a kitchen fire at Pizza Hut on Highway 12, then extinguished a mobile home fire at 1347 Sykes Road Wednesday evening, Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said. The owner of the mobile home, which only had been on the property since Tuesday, was "slightly burned" while trying to put out the blaze before firefighters arrived.