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Investigators Trying to Determine What Started Deadly Fire

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

MADISON COUNTY, Tenn.- The Jackson Madison County Fire Department is still investigating what started the fatal fire at a group home in Beech Bluff, Tuesday.

Madison County Fire Chief Eric Turner said the exact cause of the fire that killed Johnny Wayne Brown, 63 has not yet been determined. Officials said they have discovered that the fire began in Brown's bedroom. "At this point nothing is suspicious," said Chief Turner, "but due to the circumstances, we have to investigate it thoroughly."

Neighbor Ricky Frazier, who often gave the residents rides back and forth to the gas station said Brown came to live in the Jackson Independent Living facility because he had no where else to turn.

"He just got out of the hospital, said his wife died about a month or month and a half ago," said Frazier.

Helen Daniels, who leases the building to seven tenants, said that was the case for most of her guests. "I've had some of these people for five years," said Daniels, "Now they have no place to go."

Some neighbors said they are now questioning whether the fire could have been prevented. "I think it's awful," said Frazier. "I think that place should have been supervised."

Property owners said there was an employed, live-in supervisor who tended to laundry and meals for the tenants. Neighbors said at the time of the fire, that manager was not in. Daniels confirmed the supervisor was out grocery shopping for the tenants when the fire started. Neighbors said they believe the tenants should have never been left alone.

"They should have supervision over there all the time. I think they (tenants) are not capable of doing for themselves in an emergency, said Frazier."

Daniels said the tenants who lived there did not need assistance or supervision because they were placed in an independent facility. She said the supervisor was only expected to provide three meals a day for each tenant, nothing more. Some neighbors disagreed and said the manager who lived within the building treated tenants like family members. They said he often went out of his way for the residents by taking them to the store and doctor's appointments.

"They were a family, ya know?," said Daniels, "They want to know if we are all going to still be together and will I be taking care of us."

Chief Turner said the Madison County Sheriff's Department is partnering with them in the death investigation. "We are just getting involved in that part of it, " said Chief Turner, "to know about the residents who lives here and their abilities."

The Jackson Meadow Independent Living Facility said they have room for all seven tenants and will take them in. Household items such as clothing for men and women are needed. To find out how you can help, visit the "Seen on 7" section of wbbjtv.com.