Weekend fire victim identified; second blaze reported in city

Rachel Baldwin rbaldwin@civitasmedia.com

January 14, 2014

Rachel Baldwin


WILLIAMSON - As the investigation into the origin of a weekend fire that destroyed several businesses and apartments and left Pike Street in Williamson in ruins continues, the State Fire Marshal has released the name of the victim who lost his life in the blaze.

The body of Robert Mitchell Smith, 48, who lived in one of the apartments that was destroyed, has been sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office for positive identification and autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

Four other residents of the apartments were taken to Williamson Memorial Hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in the fire. One of those individuals, Gilford Muncy, was transferred to the burn unit of Cabell-Huntington Hospital, where he remains in serious condition with third-degree burns.

According to Williamson Fire Chief Jerry Mounts, preliminary reports from the state fire marshal assigned to the case points toward the fire starting in Muncy’s apartment, but the definite origin has yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, on Monday morning at approximately 8:30 a.m., Mingo County 911 received a report of a fire at 551 Maple Walk in Williamson. Upon arrival, firefighters found a furnace fire on the ground floor of the two-family dwelling.

The rental property, owned by Sam Kapourales, was occupied by Tiffany Cline and her child. The child had spent the night with family and was not home at the time of the fire. Matthew Messarian, who lives across Maple Walk from Cline, said he was outside when the woman came running out of the house, frantic because her home was on fire. Messerian said Cline attempted to go back in to collect personal belongings but he prevented her from doing so.

“She did grab a couple of things that were directly inside the doorway, including her purse, but I held her and didn’t let her go in again,” said Messarian. “There’s no belongings that are worth risking your life over.”

Mounts said the fire itself was contained to the room in which it began, but added that the entire structure suffered smoke damage.

“We have prepared for different fire scenarios here on Maple Walk,” the fire chief said. “Due to the fact that you cannot access the majority of these homes by vehicle, you have to use a sidewalk. We developed three different plans for access, depending on where the fire is located.”

“This plan was well rehearsed and played out perfectly with no problems,” Mounts said.

The department responded with two engine companies and eight firefighters.

A Monday morning blaze also was reported at a home at Hardy, Ky. but no details had been released from the Belfry Volunteer Fire Department at presstime.