Cause undetermined in fire that destroyed north Brownwood home

Steve Nash
Brownwood Fire Marshal Buddy Preston looks through the charred remains Wednesday morning of a carport that burned, along with the home the carport is attached to, at 1508 Waco in Brownwood. Preston was standing in the area where he said the fire started shortly bef

Outside the charred remains of a north Brownwood home Wednesday morning, there were plenty of questions.

Some could be answered easily, such as a question from a neighbor: were all of the people who lived in the home, at 1508 Waco, OK? Yes, everyone got out OK, the home’s owner, 64-year-old Dorothy Cooper, told the neighbor.

Other questions weren’t so easy to answer: what caused the fire, which began around 11:40 p.m. Tuesday and destroyed the home and attached carport, and heavily damaged a car parked there?

The cause is undetermined, Fire Marshal Buddy Preston said. He knows where the fire started: under the carport, near the an exterior wall of the small two-bedroom, wood frame home.

There were five adults living in the home: Cooper, who needs a wheelchair to get around, another woman and three men, Cooper said. Preston said they are all related one way or another.

Cooper said four of the five people were at home when the fire began: herself and the three men. She said she rode her electric scooter to safety, but the wheelchair’s battery charger was destroyed in the fire.

The home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived late Tuesday night, Preston said. The American Red Cross responded to the scene.

Wednesday morning, Preston walked around the property and examined some of the blackened remains. Preston said the house did not have gas service but there were seven propane tanks outside. One of the tanks, located under the carport, had an attached rubber hose that fed through a wall, Preston said.

“I think they were using it for heat,” Preston said.

There were several items in the area where the fire started, Preston said, including the propane bottle, an oxygen tank, a window air conditioner that was plugged into an extension cord and the battery charger for the scooter. The propane tank was a factor “in the progression of the fire,” Preston said.

As Preston examined the fire scene, Cooper sat in the front passenger seat of a GMC Yukon. Cooper’s daughter, Kathryn Culley — who owns the Yukon — sat behind her mother. Cooper will be staying with in Culley’s home, the two women said.

Cullen said items her mother will need include bathroom accessories for a disabled person and “she needs a better wheelchair.”

Cooper said she had lived in the home, for which she had no insurance, since 2003.

The home had come to the attention of city code enforcement officials earlier this month. A code enforcement officer issued citations and warning for for several substandard conditions, and police arrested a woman who lived there on a drug charge.