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Cigarette believed to have started fatal fire

POSTED: September 16, 2009 9:41 a.m.
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Max Long

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A retired sailor and merchant marine, who had recently returned to his native Liberty County, died in a fire at his home Monday afternoon.
Authorities are not sure what killed Max Long, 78, according to Liberty County Sheriff’s Department Keith Moran. He did say no foul play is suspected.
Long’s home did not sustain heavy damage from the initial blaze, but later was destroyed when a hot spot reignited.
State Insurance and Fire Commissioner John Oxendine’s office said Tuesday the fire has been ruled an accident, that Long fell asleep in a recliner while smoking a cigarette. State fire marshals work for the commissioner.
“It is my understanding Mr. Long was already dead when he was pulled from the fire by his nephew,” Oxendine spokesman Glenn Allen said.
Gum Branch Fire Chief Thomas Fisher said Long’s nephew, Jon Long, discovered the fire when he went to check on him about 4 p.m.
The younger Long, who is a retired Georgia Patrol trooper, reportedly broke into the house after seeing smoke and pulled Max Long outside to a porch, where he was later pronounced dead.
Fisher said initial reports were that damage was contained to contents and furnishings in the livingroom, where Jon Long reportedly found his uncle in a chair.
The fire chief said when firefighters arrived, smoke was coming from the house and they quickly contained the flames.
Guy Wells, a family friend, said Max Long lived alone in the house in the 8900 block of Highway 196, near Long Road.
Besides serving in the Navy, 1951-55, during the Korean war and earning the Korean Service medal, Max Long also served in the Coast Guard, 1960-64, and later joined the Merchant Marines, according to information from his family. He made his home in Clinton, Tenn., until his wife, Margaret Mull Long, died.
An autopsy is supposed to be performed to determine the cause of death.
Firefighters were called back to the house early Tuesday.
“We had been called out earlier around 12:30 and poured about 1,000 gallons of water on and inside the residence to hit hot spots that may have lingered,” Fisher said. “Around 2 a.m. we got a call the home was fully engulfed, destroying everything but a rear wall.”
The chief said a thermal-imaging device his volunteer firefighters use to detect hot spots apparently missed some under the floor of the modular home.
 

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