State Fire Marshal's Office officials and the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office are conducting an investigation of a blaze early last Sunday morning in which one person died and a residence was destroyed.
When firefighters arrived at the fire at 6285 Blacklick Eastern Road at 4:08 a.m. April 8 they could only attempt to get it under control, Violet Township Fire Chief Mike Little said.
The fire was extinguished 45 minutes later. After emergency personnel entered the structure, it was determined one person had died inside.
Little said April 9 his department hadn't released the name of the person believed to be the victim, and the person's identity will not be confirmed until the Fairfield County Coroner's Office concluded its work.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, Violet Township Assistant Fire Chief Jim Paxton said the victim was presumed to be John LeTourneau, 60, who the Fairfield County Auditor's Office lists as one of two owners of the house.
Paxton, however, told the ThisWeek Pickerington Times-Sun the presumption of the victim's identity was made by the media.
"That presumption was made on the behalf of the Dispatch reporter," Paxton said. "I can confirm that a body was recovered at the scene.
"That body has been secured by the coroner's office, and I have no word on the results of identification process," he said. "There is one adult male family member unaccounted for from the residence. The investigation is ongoing."
Little said there have been about six fatal fires in Violet Township in the past 30 years.
"It's been a long time since Violet Township endured a fatal fire," Little said. "The last one I can remember was about 14 or 15 years ago."
According to Little, the fire first was reported at about 4:02 a.m. Sunday. His department received several reports in the following minutes, he said.
"It had been called in by a passerby and that person reported there was already fire throughout the house and blowing out the windows."
Because there was a death, the fire investigation has been turned over to the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the State Fire Marshal.
"They're going to try to look for a cause and determination," Little said. "They're also going to make sure no crime was involved."
Little said initial indications are that the victim was upstairs in bed in the two-story house at the time of the fire. He said the victim was found in the "center portion" of the house with bedding around the body, leading first responders to speculate the second floor collapsed with the victim in bed.
Two other people are believed to be residents of the house, but Little said his department confirmed they were out of town at the time of the fire.
He said the two other residents are staying with relatives because the house is not habitable.
Little praised firefighters from the city of Columbus, the West Licking Joint Fire District, Millersport, the Basil Joint Fire District and Truro Township for their assistance in quelling the flames.
"There were no firefighter injuries," Little said.