Fire victim identified

Published 6:49 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Law enforcement has identified the man who died in a Beaufort County fire Tuesday.

Ronnie Dean Ennis, 71, was found deceased inside the residence at 276 Chandler Road, just off of U.S. Highway 17 in southern Beaufort County. Two other residents were in the house at the time, but were able to escape the burning structure, according to a press release from Lt. Wesley Waters with Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

“Fire patterns observed at the scene indicate the fire originated somewhere under the attached carport. Due to the extensive damage to the property, investigators were unable to determine an exact location where the fire originated,” the press release said. Witnesses also told officials that Ennis had been burning leaves and possibly trash in the area of the house.

“It could have been an accident — that they were burning something else and it just got out of control and took the house down,” said Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Charlie Rose.

The sheriff’s office and officials with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations were at the scene Wednesday, searching through the debris.

“(They’re) digging through the rubble, dirt, debris and ash, to see if we can’t look for things pointing at where it started and how it started,” Rose said.

Ennis had several neighbors close by who initially reported the fire, but 911 continued to receive calls those nearby when ammunition in the residence began to explode as the fire grew.

Chocowinity, Blounts Creek, Grimesland and Vanceboro volunteer fire departments responded to the fire, along with Chocowinity and Washington EMS squads. Four Chocowinity firefighters were treated at the scene for heat exhaustion; another had to be transported to Vidant Beaufort Hospital, where he was treated and released three hours later.

Chocowinity EMS Capt. Shane Grier said the heavy equipment, heat and exertion factored into the heat-related injuries.

“You’re put in a strenuous environment that you’re not usually in and all the factors add up. … that all happened in the rescue phase. They weren’t fighting fire — we were trying to get the victim out of the house,” Grier said. “We knew there was a victim there and that sort of amped everything up.”

The investigation is ongoing, but investigators say they do not suspect foul play in the incident.

“There’s nothing really pointing in that direction right now,” Rose added.