Fire kills Brown St. resident

Published 6:39 am Wednesday, April 6, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
When Ed "Buddy" Johnson entered the house to investigate a smoky smell, no one knew it would be the last time anyone would see him.
Johnson was eating lunch on the front porch with the home's owner Sarah Edwards when they began smelling something burning.
"He was sitting on the porch and I think he smelled the smoke and went in to see what was going on and never made it out," Sarah's son, Eugene Edwards said. "Too much smoke got in his lungs he couldn't make it out."
According to Eugene, Johnson was a longtime family friend who lived in the house.
"(He lived there) since about 1990 or '91; about 15 years," Eugene said. "He was just a real close friend and needed somewhere to stay back in those days."
Eugene said it is not certain where the fire began.
"We know it started in the back of the house, either the kitchen area or the back room," Eugene said.
The house became quickly engulfed in flames.
"At 3 o'clock Friday evening we received a call to 74 Brown St.," Atmore Fire Chief Gerry McGhee said. "We got a phone call saying that someone was in the house and the house was totally involved. The police got there first, but it was too hot for them to enter. We got in the house and found out there was a 10-89 (10-code for a fatality). Whenever there's a fatality you have to call the state fire marshal to investigate."
The fire marshal pinpointed the fire to the kitchen.
"The state fire marshal investigated it and they determined it started on the stove," McGhee said. "There was no kind of foul play or nothing."
At least 20 people responded to the emergency.
"There were 11 people on the scene not counting police," McGhee said. "The police, I believe, had four police officers and an investigator on the scene. Kelly's ambulance responded with us and I think Atmore Ambulance was dispatched too in case some of the firemen were hurt or whatever."
Luckily no one else was hurt, but the loss of a close friend was a tragedy that was made even more painful by the loss of the Edwards family homestead.
"It's standing, but it's not livable, all the insides are burned out," Eugene said. "It's just a frame. All they can do is knock it down. I feel terrible because it's just like a family album. All of us grew up in that house and some of [my brothers' and sisters'] kids did too. All of our pictures, our mementos, all the certificates and things we had gotten and left there are all gone."
Eugene's son was the first family member to arrive at the scene, but Eugene arrived in time to see the home engulfed.
"My son works for the fire department, so he got there a little bit before me," Eugene said. "I got there a little before three. It had to burn over an hour. It was burning when I got there. There was so much smoke you barely could see the flames."
For Eugene the losses in this fire go much deeper than property damage.
"(Johnson was) a real close friend," Eugene said. "It was a loss, a great loss."
For now Sarah Edwards is without a home and without a cherished friend.
"I guess she'll either live with me or I've got several other brothers and sisters, so she may live with all of them," Eugene said. "Right now she's living with me for a while."
Johnson has one brother and three sisters who live in Pensacola. Contact information for Johnson's family was unavailable at this time.

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