New Year’s fire claims one life

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The New Year got off to a gruesome start for Lawrence Countyauthorities Thursday when an early-morning house fire claimed onelife.

Monticello Assistant Fire Chief Hugh Summers said 49-year-oldAlvin Harris was found dead in his home at 2925 Highway 27 Northafter the department fought a long battle to extinguish theflames.

Summers said the old, wooden house was fully involved when hisdepartment arrived on scene at 3:10 a.m. The department stayedthroughout the fire and subsequent investigation until after 10a.m.

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Lawrence County Coroner Sidney Fortenberry said Harris was foundlying on the floor amidst the scorched remains of a recliner, andit appears there was no attempt to escape the fire.

Fortenberry said Harris suffered from paralysis on one side ofhis body from a stroke years ago, but the victim was still able tomove around his home with the help of a cane.

Harris’ friends reported he was drinking heavily earlier in thenight when they brought him home around 11 p.m., Fortenberry said,and investigators found “numerous, numerous” beer cans near theremains. Additionally, Fortenberry said the remains of a small,electric heater were found near the victim’s feet.

“We do not feel like anybody set the fire, ’cause it was an old,old house,” Fortenberry said. “It had no heat in it other than theelectric heater. But we don’t know whether he had another stroke ora heart attack and couldn’t get up – we don’t know why he diedyet.”

The house fire and Harris’ official cause of death remain underinvestigation, Fortenberry said. He said Harris’ body has been sentto the state crime lab for an autopsy.

Williams Mortuary in Brookhaven will handle funeral arrangementsfor Harris.