By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
An investigator with the Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office is working to determine what caused an early-Sunday (March 20) fire that claimed the life of an 90-year-old Atmore man.
Atmore Fire Chief Ron Peebles reported that firefighters discovered the body of Frank Jones inside the Ann Street home he shared with his wife, Rosie, when they were battling the blaze.
Reports show that AFD units were dispatched at 6:18 a.m. and arrived three minutes later to find flames coming from a window in the room where Frank Jones was eventually found, as well as from the eaves in the rear of the house. They remained on the scene until 1:30 p.m., after the state investigator arrived and allowed the removal of the body.
Peebles said firemen put out the flames rather quickly, but the home’s construction of fat pine and its metal roof hindered the effort to gain control of the fire.
“The guys made a good stop, a heck of a stop,” the fire chief said. “But it was an older house, made of fat lighter that caused it to burn faster and get up into the attic. Plus, it has a metal roof, and that intensified the heat and held it in, like an oven. If it had had a shingled roof, the fire would have burned through and let the heat and gases escape.”
Comments on the Atmore News Facebook page show that the Joneses were fondly thought of by neighbors and others who knew them.
Juanita Woods-Daniels called the couple “the best neighbors in the neighborhood” and noted that the couple “always looked out for me and mine,” while Charlotte Denise called Frank Jones “the sweetest man ever.”
Marlo Young agreed, commenting that, “Mr. Frank was such a caring man and looked out for a lot of us that grew up in the neighborhood.”
Peebles reported that the fatal inferno started in the room where Jones, who reportedly had problems with mobility, was located.
“Mr. Jones was in the room where it started,” he said. “I understand that he was not very mobile — there was a walker close to the body — so that probably jeopardized his getting out of the house. But there was nothing we could do to save him; the fire was too far gone.”
The veteran firefighter said the knowledge that someone was still in the burning house elevated the urgency in bringing the fire under control.
“It’s different feeling,” he said. “Knowing there’s somebody still inside steps it up a notch, or several notches.”
Peebles also pointed out that city firefighters and those from Poarch Creek Indians Fire Department, weren’t alone in their battle against Sunday’s fire.
“Atmore police helped us tremendously,” he said. “They have a lot of young officers, and they are gung-ho. They pulled hoses and did whatever came up that they could help with.”
Rosie Jones, who suffers from high blood pressure, was taken to Atmore Community Hospital, where she was examined and released.
The fatality was reportedly the first fire-related death inside the city limits since a 65-year-old Carver Street resident lost her life when her home burned in 2017.