House fire kills two in Benton County

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

ASHLAND – Investigators were trying to learn the identities of two people who died in a Benton County house fire Friday.
The fire broke out between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. on Hardway Church Road, said county Coroner Bob Riles.
He said firefighters initially thought no one was injured, but when they went back to the home later in the morning to check for hot spots, they found two bodies under the rubble.
“The firemen went back later in the morning because it was just too dark to do anything at first,” said Riles. “That’s when the bodies were found. They were under a lot of rubble and had to be dug out. We have no identification for them yet and we sent the bodies to Jackson for autopsies. We’re just in a wait-and-see mode.”
The house, which was destroyed, was in the northern part of the county.
The two deaths pushed the state’s toll from house fires to 27 for the year. And in late December, nine people died in an apartment fire in Starkville.
Mississippi typically has one of the nation’s highest rates of fire deaths per capita. For 2009, Mississippi recorded 69 fire- and smoke-related deaths, according to state Department of Health statistics.

Fire safety
Donna Cromeans, spokeswoman for the state fire marshal’s office, said state officials are trying to educate people about fire safety.
The concern is particularly high during cold weather when space heaters and other potentially hazardous heat sources are commonly used.
The Benton County fire is under investigation by Riles’ office, the sheriff’s office and the state fire marshal. It was unclear when the autopsies will be completed.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.