The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 12, 2014

UPDATE: 2 victims ID'd from midnight blaze in western Limestone

State: 34 people killed by fires this year

— A mother and daughter were reported dead following a house fire early this morning near Bay Hill Village in western Limestone County, officials said.

Sheriff’s Capt. Stanley McNatt said the victims have been identified as Josephine Anne Lamar, 76, and Traci Rebecca Shook, 43, both of Athens.

Lamar’s son, who was living in the basement apartment of the home at 4155 Snake Road, noticed smoke coming from the ground level at about 12:30 a.m., said Sheriff Mike Blakely.

Coroner Mike West said the son was not injured despite pulling the two women from the home, which he described as a total loss.

“The son said he pulled both of them onto the porch — one on the front porch and one on the back porch, and both porches were completely burned,” West said.

Although the Sheriff’s Office has confirmed the victims' identities, their bodies have been taken to the state forensic lab in Huntsville for official identification.

The cause of death has not been determined because an autopsy must be performed, West said. The state lab is closed today due to inclement weather.

Stephen Holmes, spokesman for the Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office, said this afternoon the cause and origin of the fire is under investigation.

“This investigation is ongoing and foul play is not suspected at this time,” Holmes said. “These two fatalities bring our total for the year in Alabama to 34. That is absolutely unacceptable.”

Holmes said many of the fatalities are due to people trying to stay warm during the recent frigid weather. He said some of the fatal fires have been so extreme that it didn’t leave enough evidence to pinpoint a heat source as the official cause.

“We ask that people be careful with their space heaters and wood heaters,” he said. “Since the weather has gotten colder, it has seemed the fatality rate has (risen). The preponderance of evidence for these fires seems to be caused by a heat source.”

Volunteer firefighters from multiple departments, including Owens and Clements, reported to the scene, which is off Little Elk Road near the Tennessee River.

—Reporter Jean Cole contributed to this report.


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