Sandusky House Fire’s Cause Is Undetermined

By Benjamin Cox on December 17, 2020 at 10:25am

More details have been released about a fire that claimed the life of a 63 year old man in Jacksonville early yesterday morning.

Jacksonville Fire Chief Doug Sills says when firefighters from South Jacksonville and Jacksonville arrived to the scene at 347 Sandusky Street shortly after midnight, they were met with the female occupant of the home and a neighbor indicating that 63 year old Robert Hembrough did not make it out of the house. Sills says the home was fully involved upon arrival with flames shooting 30-40 feet in the air and smoke was coming from all available orifices of the home. Sills says after speaking with the two individuals, two firefighters entered the back of the home and were able to remove Hembrough from the burning structure. With the help of LifeStar EMS, they began an attempt to revive Hembrough on the scene but were ultimately unable to do so. Hembrough was pronounced dead at the scene by Morgan County Coroner Marcy Patterson at 12:45AM.

Sills says that firefighters remained on the scene until 4AM to ensure the fire was out and to investigate the two neighboring residences who had accrued severe heat damage.

Sills says that the investigation into the cause of the fire hasn’t provided any answers: “After going through the investigation with the State Fire Marshal and the Jacksonville Police Department detectives, the arson investigator, and myself, we know that the area of origin was a front living room on the downstairs, in the first floor of the home. At this point in time, we have several ignition sources in that area but we are going to have to deem this fire undetermined just because we can’t come to a specific cause of it. There are several things that we are looking at, but we can’t definitively say “Yes, this was it.'”

Sills also says that the fire was not deemed suspicious or intentional at this time. Sills also says that some reports indicate there may have been oxygen in the house that could have contributed to the rapid spread of the fire, but those reports are currently unconfirmed at this time.

Sills says the two neighboring residences also sustained heavy damage, with 351 Sandusky to the north receiving exterior damage estimated at $10,000. The house to the south, 341 Sandusky sustained approximately $20,000 worth of damage overall. Sills says that due to some firefighting efforts on the second floor of the southern neighboring residence, ceiling had to be pulled to check the attic to ensure that the home hadn’t also been ignited from the large flames from the original blaze.

Sills could not provide further information as to the condition of the female occupant of the home. She was taken from the scene by LifeStar EMS to Passavant Area Hospital for unspecified injuries.