Starkville blaze ruled ‘accidental'

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

The Starkville Fire Department ruled Friday that the Dec. 28 Starkville apartment fire that killed nine people was “accidental” and caused by either electrical power cords or “smoking-related materials.”
Starkville Fire Chief Rodger Mann said that his department looked at several possible causes and eliminated all of them, with the exception of those two.
“We have evidence on both sides, but we don’t have definitive evidence to be able to determine a cause,” Mann said. “There has been a lot of discussion back and forth in trying to look both ways. There is not enough there.”
Earlier this month, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner and state Fire Marshal Mike Chaney said his office ruled the fire was caused by “smoking-related materials.”
Mann said that his investigators believe that the area of the room where the fire started had an extension cord and some wiring that may have come off of what was a Christmas tree.
He said he did not find any evidence that it was caused by the building’s electric system. He also didn’t find any evidence of overuse of electrical outlets. He said that factors that could cause electrical power cords to start a fire would include “mechanical abuse, such as walking on it or having a chair sitting on it.”
Smoking-related materials could include several items, such as matches, lighters, cigarettes or cigars.
The fire, which occurred at the Academy Crossing apartment complex, killed three adults and six children, aged between six months and six years. It is the fourth deadliest fire in state history and the deadliest residential fire.