Lesson in Awareness:Two Dead in Presumed Vacant CT House Fire

Despite tin foil hats and other oddities, the house they occupied was considered vacant.

Firefighters in Waterbury, Connecticut responded to a house fire with reported explosion on 28 July. What makes it an interesting fire and one that prompts us to be aware of similar conditions is the description of the occupants. The couple residing at 78 Clover Street have been described as eccentric by some local news reports.

Audley Morgan and his daughter Suzette were known to cut their grass while wearing tin foil hats as well as ride bicycles with lights and sirens and carry umbrellas, rain or shine. Other oddities included shunning cellphones, computers and televisions. Morgan chose to run a generator and collect rain water instead of paying for public utilities.

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Among these anomalies was a reclusion in recent years. This is possibly what led many, including the fire department, to believe the house was vacant, The initial reporting even stated that local authorities had to determine if the victims were occupants or squatters. Fire companies on the scene had difficulty making entry due to window bars and windows boarded up with plywood.

The seclusion and improvised home security is similar to that of Langley Collyer of the famous Collyer brothers. Langley was responsible for the booby traps and mazes in the Harlem brownstone he shared with his brother Homer. What is especially interesting in the Waterbury fire is that when the seclusion and outward appearance of the structure were combined, many believed the home was vacant.

"The building was considered to be a vacant structure. The power was shut off to the building and the building was fortified to keep vagrants or persons out," Asst. Fire Chief Mike Couture said."

By the end of the following day, investigators determined that neither hoarding nor squatting were linked to the couples' death, but murder suicide. Audley reportedly shot his daughter in the head, lit a couch on fire and then took his own life with one shot.

Consider such locations in your response area that may look neglected outwardly but might have an occupant inside. Levels IV and V of the Clutter Hoarding scale list visible signs of neglect which, in some ways, may resemble a vacant or abandoned structure.

  

References

Waterbury Police: Fire Set After Murder, Courant.com

Waterbury deaths ruled murder-suicide, WTNH

Waterbury Deaths Ruled Murder-Suicide, NBC Connecticut

Connecticut murder-suicide case remains under investigation, MassLive.com

Cops: Waterbury house fire that killed two may have been murder-suicide, NewsTimes.com

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Backstep Firefighter

β€œTo provide a point of critical thought about certain acts and events in the fire service while incorporating behavioral education and commentary in a referenced format.”
Comments
John Pignataro
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Bravo sir ...This battle began in the early 1990's having been a career DC Fireman for 30 yrs and a still active volunteer fireman for 37 the mentality has changed since 1977. Your article is clear and to the point but I am afraid the fire service maybe lost to the folks who preach the…
2014-08-23 01:12:28
Ben Waller
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Actually, the "Women and children first" idea cane from the sinking if the HMS Birkenhead. Now known as "The Birkenhead Drill", this stemmed from the ship beginning to sink, an inadequate number of lifeboats, and the Royal Marines and soldiers on board being called to formation and standing in ranks while the ships crew put…
2014-08-21 11:25:14
Ron Ayotte
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Bing-freaking-o!
2014-08-21 02:49:30
Brian Gary
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Very well written. I couldn't agree more with your statements. The problems are many, but they perpetuate and increase with every new class of recruits that are poisoned with the idea that anyone who feels unsafe has a responsibility to act and stop whatever is going on. When I came on, my instructors told me…
2014-08-21 02:04:23
Ric Jorge
Women and Children First by Dave LeBlanc
Atta boy David, customer service or customer satisfaction? The line is fine, and more often than not we can accomplish both with action, and a kind demeanor.
2014-08-21 01:41:12
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