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Officials: Cause of Deadly Fire Was Smoking in a Chair

By Amanda Brannon
Published On: Aug 31 2012 07:31:11 AM CDT
Updated On: Aug 31 2012 06:03:27 PM CDT
GREENVILLE -

53-year-old Deborah Greene was killed in an early-morning fire at a living complex for senior citizens.

Greenville Fire and Rescue got the call just after 5 o'clock Friday morning regarding a fire in an apartment at Oak Haven Senior Village on Maddox Road.

According to the Oak Haven Assited Living facility located across the street, two employees that work overnight smelled the smoke and ran across the street to get the other people out of the duxplex. Those employees then called 911 for help.

Nora Cherry is one of those neighbors. She said she was terrified when she heard a knock on her door.

"I was in bed. That's how early it was. I think it was somewhere around 4 o'clock or 4:30. I really don't know what time it was but it was early. But when they called and said get out of your house I did try and put my clothes on because I hate to go out with my night clothes on," Cherry said.

Upon arrival, fire officials said they found Greene dead inside her apartment.

Greenville Fire Marshal, Captain Wayne Peaden, said the fire that killed Greene started in a living room chair, where the woman had been smoking.

The investigation revealed while Greene did have an oxygen tank in the home, it did not explode in the fire. Therefore, it did not contribute to the fire spreading.

Pauline Mills has lived in the building next door for nearly 14 years. She said she knows the dangers of smoking near her oxygen machine so she steers clear of fire hazards.

"I don't even cook with mine on because I'm afraid it might hurt me worse. You know burn my nose or something like that," Mills said.

Fire officials said there was a smoke detector in the home but they could not determine if it was working at the time of this morning's fire.

The Greenville Medical Examiner office confirmed Friday afternoon Greene's death was caused by accidental smoke inhalation.

Property Manager Joy Bland said Greene moved to Oak Haven from Connecticut about a year ago.

Bland says Greene had had a variety of health problems. Neighbors said there are no rules regarding smoking at the community.