News and Tribune

May 30, 2007

New Albany man dies in fire

By JENNIFER RIGG

A fire at a New Albany home Tuesday afternoon claimed the life of a 72-year-old man.

Firefighters were called to the home of Ozzie Douglas, 230 Olive Ave., about 2 p.m., where they found the front of the single-story house fully engulfed in flames and him unresponsive in a bedroom.

Douglas was taken to Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services where he was pronounced dead, said Floyd County Coroner Greg Balmer.

Officials said he lived in the house alone.

When Laise Mann saw the flames from a block away, she immediately called 911 then ran to see if she could help, she said.

“I ran out here barefoot and everything,” the 34-year-old neighbor said. “But there was no way we could get in. The flames were coming out the front.

“I heard nothing — just burning.”

New Albany Fire Department Deputy Chief Rob Carl said it took firefighters nearly 30 minutes to get the blaze under control, but added they were still fighting hot spots up to three hours later. No firefighters were seriously injured, but one was treated for heat exhaustion. Monday’s high temperature was about 90 degrees.

Investigators believe the fire started in the front of the home, but a cause is undetermined. Chief Ron Toran said state fire marshals were on the scene and would likely name a cause sometime today.

Another of Douglas’ neighbors, Claudia Roby, said she, too, called 911 when she came out of her apartment and saw flames leaping from the home’s front porch. She knew Douglas was likely inside and unable to get out, as he had been suffering from numerous health problems and “could barely walk,” she said.

“It was bad, really bad,” she said of the blaze. “When I got over there, you couldn’t see anything because of the smoke. There was no way I could have gone in to get him.”

Roby described Douglas as “a sweet man.”

“He would walk up and down the street waving at people,” she said. “He just minded his own business.”