Investigation continues into cause of blaze

Published 9:48 am Monday, November 7, 2011

Investigators from Atmore Fire Department and the state fire marshal’s office sifted through the charred remains of a First Street home Thursday as questions remained about the blaze that took the lives of three small children — and why they were left home alone.

Hours after the flames were extinguished, fire marshal Mike Talley was still on the scene working to determine the origin.

Talley and Atmore Fire Chief Gerry McGhee were visible inside the home for much of Thursday, investigating inside the residence where yellow police tape separated the officers from several lurking news vans. At the edge of the blackened yard, two stuffed animals rested against the remains of a mailbox, a sign people were returning to the scene to offer their condolences.

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Friday, Talley returned to Atmore to continue his work.

Although no official cause has been released, officials working the case said it appeared the fire originated from an open stove being used as a source of heating for the home.

Atmore Fire Chief Gerry McGhee said the two-day investigation will determine not only how the fire started, but will also play a role in whether or not criminal charges are filed.

The children had been left alone in the home prior to the fire.

District Attorney Steve Billy said his office is cooperating with the police and fire departments.

“It’s still under investigation,” Billy said. “We’re working with the fire marshal’s office and interviewing witnesses.”