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Man dies in W.Va. shed fire

March 11, 1999

Martinsburg Fatal FireBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A fire in a storage shed behind a house on West Addition Street claimed a man's life Thursday afternoon, according to Martinsburg City Police and firefighters.

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Authorities were trying to confirm the identity of the victim late Thursday.

"The individual is burned beyond recognition," said Martinsburg Fire Chief Phil Martin.

The body was found near the door of the shed, said Martinsburg Police Capt. Barbara Bartley.

She said the blaze did not appear to have been deliberately set.

Martin said the shed behind a home at 1111 W. Addition St. was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived shortly after 1 p.m.

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The structure was a small barn-shaped shed that had been fixed up to make it livable, according to fire officials and neighbors.

David Miller, a next-door neighbor, said a man had been living in the shed, which was fitted out with a refrigerator, cot, television and a telephone.

Investigators stretched a yellow police tape around the shed and the white Cape Cod house.

A short time later, Bartley led a visibly upset woman into the house.

Investigators trying to identify the man sifted through the charred interior of the shed and took photographs.

Lenice Garrett said that before the fire was apparent she had noticed a man outside fall on ice. He was trying to get up but was struggling, said Garrett, who lives across the street.

Garrett said the next time she looked outside she saw smoke around the building, then flames.

"The flames were just shooting out," Garrett said.

The body was taken to Brown Funeral Home, and was to be taken to the state medical examiner's office in Morgantown, W.Va., for an autopsy to determine an identity and exact cause of death, Bartley said.

The body probably would have to be identified through dental records, Bartley said.

There also was a chance that a partial tattoo on the body could be used to identify the person who died in the blaze, Bartley said.

Bartley would not say who owned the property on which the shed was located.

The fire occurred in a quiet, attractive section of town not far from Martinsburg Mall.

The investigation was being conducted by Capt. Dave Brining of the Martinsburg Fire Department with assistance from city police.

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