Fire chief says Centertown community devastated after fatal fire

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COLE COUNTY - The family of Steven Mims asked for privacy Thursday as they worked to process his death.

Mims died Wednesday after his house, just outside of Centertown city limits, caught fire. Crews from the Regional West Fire Protection District worked to extinguish the flames, Fire Chief Jack Brady said the house ignited some time before crews arrived. He said fire crews remained on the scene for five hours Wednesday, working through high temperatures and dense humidity to put out the fire. A neighbor told KOMU 8 News the smoke was so thick as she drove off Route Z that she couldn't see which home was on fire. 

Chief Brady said the construction of the old home made it difficult to extinguish.

"The construction of the house, it's an older house, is what they call plaster and lat construction. It makes the inside of the house almost like an oven. It contains the heat in the fire."

Brady also said crews had to back out of the home because of electrical arching in the walls. He said crews waited a short time before being allowed to reenter the burning home and extinguish it. He said firefighers found Mim in the front room, but were unable to retrieve him to ensure a proper investigation could be done.

Firefighters returned to the home Thursday afternoon to put out a flare up. Brady said Centertown is a small, tight-knit community with many residents who know each other well.

"I think in the Midwest when you have smaller towns you have those tight-knit communities. You have neighbors that know neighbors."

Mims' family and neighbors did not wish to comment Thursday as they processed what happeend. Chief Brady called the incident a tragedy.

"Anytime there's a loss it's going to impact the community, not just the family and friends, because they realize it's so close to home. In areas like this when something happens, it is a tragedy because it's not something that happens everyday."