ATLANTA (AP) — At a northwest Atlanta home where six people died in an early morning fire, neighbors said the heat was provided by space heaters and the homeowner regularly allowed people to stay when they were down on their luck.
Four men and two women were killed in the blaze, which was reported before dawn Monday.
The fire’s cause does not appear suspicious, though investigators are considering all possibilities, authorities said Tuesday.
Autopsies were being conducted by the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, which had not yet released the victims’ identities early Tuesday.
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Investigators have spoken with a key witness — a woman who was in the home about 30 minutes before the blaze began, Atlanta Fire Rescue Sgt. Cortez Stafford said Tuesday.
Jannett Ragland said she arrived at the home around 4 a.m. Monday and left around 5 a.m. — very close to the time the fire was reported.
Ragland said she believes the home was unsafe for people staying there.
“It needed to be shut down. It needed to be closed down, condemned or whatever,” Ragland told an Associated Press photographer at the scene of the fire on Monday.
She added, “I feel blessed — very blessed — because it could have been me.”
There were two space heaters in the home, which always ran because it was cold in the house, Ragland told the AP. She said a lamp in the living was “leaning to the side like it would catch something on fire.”
The man who lived in the home allowed people into the house when they were down on their luck and needed a place to stay, said a neighbor, Kimberly Wise.
“It does not appear to be a suspicious fire or arson at this time, but of course they’re looking into everything they can to find out what started this fire,” Stafford said.
When fire crews arrived, the blaze had already spread through the roof and throughout the building, making it impossible for firefighters to reach some areas of the home, Stafford said.
“We got on scene and did the best job we could to try to get inside — there was just too much fire,” Stafford told reporters at the scene. He said the single-level structure with a basement had “collapsed in on itself.”
Five of the victims were found in the rear of the home and one was found in a front bedroom, he said.