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Cause of fire may never be known

A public funeral will held for the nine victims Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Maranatha Fellowship Church in St. Albans. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the location of the service. Arrangements are being organized through Durgan Funeral Home in Beckley.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Investigators will likely not find the cause of Saturday's fire that killed two adults and seven children, said Charleston Assistant Fire Chief Bob Sharp.

Sharp said three smoke detectors were found inside the house at 2 Arlington Ave. -- one not working or installed correctly and two uninstalled.

The fire will be ruled "undetermined" because no one can say with certainty how it started based on preliminary findings, he said. Arson has been ruled out, he said.

Charleston firefighters and members of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been looking through evidence and interviewing witnesses since Saturday.

"To say something is 100 percent, you better know what caused it 100 percent," Sharp said.

"Someone will go behind you, like an insurance company, and they could have another theory. You could go to court and testify and they are going to ask you, 'what do you know 100 percent to get to that opinion?' "

Alisha Carter-Camp, 26, Alex Seals, 24, Keahana Camp, 8, Jeremiah Camp, 3, Elijah Scott, 3, Emanuel Jones, 18 months, and twins Kiki and Gigi Seals, both 3, all died in the fire. Bryan "BJ" Timothy Camp, 8, was taken to CAMC Women and Children's Hospital, where family members removed him from life support Sunday.

There are plenty of theories about how the fire started. But to prove any of them would be difficult, Sharp said.

Neighbors said at least one candle was burning at Carter-Camp's birthday party the night before the fire. Sharp said any hope of finding evidence linking that candle to the fire is unlikely.

"A fire of that magnitude, there's not going to be much left of a candle," he said.

The house's landlord, Delores Shamblin, 74, of Mammoth, said Tuesday she had eight smoke detectors installed in November. The detectors were on the walls when she visited the house on Feb. 28, Shamblin said.

Sharp said it's possible more than three smoke detectors were inside the house at time of the fire. Investigators reported only finding one smoke detector immediately after the fire. It was under a cabinet and not working.

"A lot of things got engulfed in the fire. There could have been some of the plastic smoke detectors burnt," he said. "That is a possibility. All I can say is what we found and try not to speculate."

Firefighters at the Cora Street station, about three blocks from the house, received the call about the fire at about 3:25 a.m. Saturday.

Sharp said the blaze engulfed the house's front side before firefighters arrived approximately two minutes later.

Latasha Jones-Isabel, 24, had come outside to smoke a cigarette on the porch when she noticed the fire, family members have said. She ran to a neighbor's to call for help when she could not re-enter the house.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.

 


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