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Fire marshal says cause of fire may never be known

April 03, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Fire officials will probably never know what caused a fire last Sunday in a log home in the John Brown Farm subdivison that claimed the life of a 73-year-old woman, an assistant state Fire Marshal said Wednesday.

Mack Dennis has said it may be impossible to determine what caused the fire at Mary Jo Crawford's home in rural Jefferson County because of the extensive damage to the house.

Dennis said Wednesday the cause of the fire has been classified as "undetermined" and it will remain that way unless new information arises.

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"I doubt we will ever know," Dennis said.

Dennis said there is nothing to indicate there was foul play involved. But he said there is nothing to suggest the blaze was accidental, either.

Dennis said there is no test or analysis that can be conducted to determine the cause of such a fire.

Although insurance companies have "cause and origin" experts who can investigate causes of fires, Dennis said he doubts they could determine the cause of the fire.

Dennis said it is common for the cause of a fire to be of undetermined status.

Crawford died when fire spread through her home along Forest Drive near Shannondale about 4:30 a.m. Sunday.

Because the roof of the house had caved in by the time firefighters arrived, Dennis said he believes the fire had been burning for a long time.

Rescue officials had to wait until firefighters extinguished the blaze before the search for Crawford could begin, said Scott Knill, chief of the Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Co.

It took about two hours to extinguish the blaze, Knill said.

Kim Sencindiver, a Berkeley County resident who helps run a K-9 rescue team, brought a search dog to the scene to find Crawford, Knill said.

The woman's body was found in the basement of the home, Knill said.

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