By NATHAN GREGORY
Starkville Fire Department officials have identified the cause of a house fire that claimed the life an elderly woman and seriously injured another man.
Fire Chief Rodger Mann said smoking materials caused a fire at 303 Everglade Avenue Thursday. Mary Elizabeth Foster, 86, died of smoke inhalation at the residence. Sam Neely, 62, was transported to OCH Regional Medical Center and was in serious condition Friday, Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt said.
Firemen arrived at the residence at 12:56 p.m., two minutes after they were notified of a fire.
Mann said after the flames were extinguished, there was smoke and heat damage throughout the residence but the fire damage was contained to the two bedrooms on its right side.
Mann said Foster had health-related issues that prevented her ability to walk. “It is our belief that Ms. Foster was smoking and … whether she dropped a cigarette or match, something occurred that caused some material to catch fire and that’s what caused the fire to build up,” Mann said.
The residence did not have a smoke detector, he said.
He said SFD is in the process of launching a citywide campaign to encourage residents to find neighbors’ homes not protected by smoke detectors.
Residents who don’t have a smoke detector in their home can request one by contacting the office of Mississippi Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney or by visiting Fire Station No. 1 and speaking with an inspector about having one installed, Mann said.