A state investigator has found that the cause of a Feb. 15 fire that claimed the life of a 78-year-old Lawrence Township woman cannot be determined.
However, the final report from the Ohio Division of the State Fire Marshal also said an accidental cause could not be ruled out.
“Accidental causes regarding the application of bug spray being ignited while the user was smoking are unable to be eliminated at this time,” said the report by investigator John Weber.
Mabel I. Lewis died in the fire at 9002 Middle Run Road NE. Her longtime companion, Robert W. Vielhauer, and her son, Jerry L. Lewis, survived.
A report from Detective Sgt. Adam Fisher of the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office said Jerry Lewis was in his basement bedroom, spraying bug spray under his bed and smoking when the bug spray ignited his bed.
“Lewis had made multiple attempts to extinguish the fire unsuccessfully and then alerted his mother … and (Vielhauer) about the fire,” Weber’s report said, in recounting Fisher’s findings. “Lewis and Vielhauer then returned to the basement attempting to extinguish the fire, quickly realizing they wouldn’t be able to. Both exited out the home through the garage and pulled a vehicle out of the garage. Lewis then tried to re-enter the home through the garage door but was unable to get back inside the home due to the intense heat and smoke.”
Weber concluded that the fire started in the southwest basement bedroom.
The report from Bolivar Fire Chief Shawn Lynch, who…