Fire ravages Robertson Ave. home
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Assisant Sulphur Springs Fire Marshal Eric Hill (left) and Investigator David James search through the charred remains of a two-story house for evidence of what may have caused the structure fire on the corner of Robertson Avenue and Towne Street early Tuesday morning.
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts

July 18, 2006 -- An early morning fire destroyed a two-story residence on Robertson Avenue early today, and authorities have yet to locate the occupant, who reportedly has not been seen home at 301 Robertson in at least three days, according to fire investigators.

Firefighters spoke with the homeowner and others who know the resident, and several locations were checked in the early morning hours in an attempt to find 36-year-old Joe Willard Thompson, who is also known as "Deaf Jodie."

Firefighters had a city worker bring in construction equipment later this morning to dig through the charred wreckage to make sure Thompson did not perish in the fire. The city worker was released to his usual duties around 9:30 a.m. after an hour of sifting through the rubble turned up no new clues.

"He's still unaccounted for at this point," said  Sulphur Springs Assistant Fire Marshall Eric Hill. "We checked known spots and common areas where he's known to stay last night and early this morning. So far, we have found nothing."

The fire was reported to authorities at about 1:30 this morning. When firefighters arrived, the blaze had engulfed the lower floor and spread into the second story of the residence. Firefighters began working from outside the house to put out the fire as the collapsing ceiling and second floor made it unsafe for firefighters to enter.

City firemen had difficulty extinguishing the blaze as "voids" created in the rubble after the second floor collapsed provided air pockets which were hard to get to inside the fire

The blaze was knocked down by 5:30 a.m., but firefighters remained at the scene until nearly 8 a.m. extinguishing hot spots and smoldering embers. A second crew was called in to work early to help, as well as to help cover other calls, should any come in.

The fire is being ruled as suspicious and thought to be arson, as not only were the gas and electric utility to the structure turned off, but it marked the second occasion in which firefighters he been called to a fire at the location, according to Hill.

This morning's fire was believed to have started on the first floor in the kitchen/living room area at the back part of the house.

Firefighters anticipate taking samples from the home to send to the state fire marshal's office in Austin for examination to determine whether accelerants or other means were used to cause the fire.

The location will be the second fire scene from which fire officials have take samples for further investigation and analysis to check for accelerants. Samples were also taken from a Texas Street location in which firefighters recently battled a fire, according to fire investigators.

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