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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“To 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.”

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Comments
Ron Ayotte
“FEAR” by Ric Jorge
Ric, excellent article. Your FD is not the only one that suffers from TAS (Training Anxiety Syndrome). Same circus, different community. As far as seeking help from an EAP, I did take advantage of my community's EAP 8 years into my career. I was heading down the road to a separation/divorce after I got promoted…
2014-12-04 16:04:47
Mike McAdams
Who Looks After The Victims?
Captain LeBlanc, Great point in the blog debating the new and old techniques and how to blend them into that first minutes on the fire ground. One of the first points stated was “Unless they know your manpower, resources and abilities, and are standing in that front lawn at 2:00 a.m., all they can do…
2014-12-02 14:45:23
Ruel Douvillier
Who Looks After The Victims?
I suspect these new tactics are all related to the NFPA standard that came out a few years ago recommending higher manpower on apparatus than the authorities having jurisdiction were prepared to implement. For the 30+ years that I've been fighting fires, UL and NIST have been using the data that they gained by setting…
2014-12-02 11:48:44
Joseph carroll
Who Looks After The Victims?
I work in a dept with 2 man Engine cos, man powers is an issue with our first due assignment. (3 engs,2 Trks , Batt Chief). Usually 13 Firefighters on the assignment. At times the exterior attack has no option, heavy fire too include exposures etc. some new leaders feel that this exterior attack is…
2014-12-01 19:05:51
Brian
Who Looks After The Victims?
Am I missing the old SSLEEVES-OCD pneumonic??? seems that one. It addressed alot of the things we have to think of, and the new Slicers is something that I think in right circumstances and construction would make sense, but at other times might be completely useless. I have watched and read alot of the NIST…
2014-12-01 02:10:06
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