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Body found at Brogdon St. fire scene ruled accidental death

Published: Feb. 13, 2015 at 11:23 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 15, 2015 at 10:23 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Investigators said an early morning fire that resulted in the death of a Savannah man behind a home on Brogdon Street appears to be accidental.

Savannah Fire and Emergency Services firefighters and Metro Police responded to a report of a shed on fire in the Magnolia Park area just before 5:30 a.m. Fire crews encountered a fully engulfed shed, and after extinguishing the fire, they discovered an unresponsive victim in an adjoining backyard close to the fire scene.

Fire investigators examined the scene and spoke with residents in the area. The investigation revealed that Steven Wayne Luther, 61, died after apparently reigniting a fire in a 55-gallon drum he was using as a burn barrel for warmth.

The flames apparently escaped the barrel and fatally injured Luther and spread to the neighbor's utility shed. Luther did not have a permanent address, but he occasionally stayed with residents on Brogdon Street.

"It's a terrible thing that someone has to try to light a fire to try to stay warm and that they don't have a place to stay," Chief Wade Simmons said.

Neighbors said he had built the fire after refusing an offer to sleep inside. Neighbors believe Luther may have tried to pour on gasoline to re-ignite the flames, but accidentally set himself on fire.

Firefighters said that is a recipe for disaster.

"Never use any kind of flammable liquids to start any type of fire because it is very volatile and can make the situation very dangerous," Simmons said.

Firefighters said you should only use dry, natural goods to keep your firing burning, like kindling. You should build your fire on dirt or concrete and keep it at least three feet from any other flammable products.

As this community grieves the loss of a friend, firefighters are asking people to reach out to anyone they see who needs a place to stay warm.

"Try to get them to a shelter, try to get them inside somewhere. Nobody should have to be outside where they are relying on an open flame to try to stay safe," Simmons said.

Neighbors said Luther loved being outdoors and wouldn't take their offer to come inside.

His body was transported to the GBI Crime Lab for an autopsy. No other injuries were associated with the incident.

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