02/29/12 — Man found dead in home after recent fire

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Man found dead in home after recent fire

By Gary Popp
Published in News on February 29, 2012 1:46 PM

A 75-year-old man was found dead after a fire last week in his apartment at 1405 Popular St., No. 39, in the Popular Street Apartments complex off of South Slocumb Street.

Walter Mewborn was found by his health care nurse after she arrived at his home shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday, according to an incident report.

Firefighters reported finding Mewborn lying partially on his bed with burns throughout his body.

"From the position of his body, it appears that he may have been trying to get off the bed," Goldsboro Fire Department Captain Dwight Olmsted said.

The exact cause of the death, though, is still undetermined.

Olmsted said the fire had burnt itself out before firefighters arrived and that it is likely the fire occurred during the afternoon or evening on Tuesday.

Olmsted said Mewborn lived at the end of a multi-unit building, but none of the other apartments were affected by the fire.

On arrival, firefighters found Mewborn's home full of smoke, but no fire.

"When our crews went in, there was very little heat," Olmsted said. "From the outside the only thing you could really see were the blinds dropping a little bit."

There was minimal smoke damage to the unit, Olmsted said, and some of the electrical sockets had melted.

The origin of the fire was in the area of the bed, where Mewborn was found, and some of the mattress was burnt.

Olmsted said the cause of the fire has not been determined, but firefighters are leaning toward the possibility that Mewborn, who is on oxygen, was smoking in his bed.

"We can't say for sure, but we can't pinpoint any other source of ignition," he said.

Olmsted did rule out that the fire was caused by an electrical short.

Olmsted said the fire appears to have burnt itself out due to the lack of oxygen in the room.

He said the fire alarm was going off when firefighters entered the unit.

It is unclear if Mewborn was handicapped, but firefighters did say a motorized cart was found in the home.

Popular Street Apartments is operated by J H. Wellons Foundation, which is a property management company, with a headquarters in Dunn, that provides housing for senior citizens and the physically handicapped.

Representatives with the Wellons Foundation repeatedly refused to provide any information regarding the fire, company policy during emergencies or how its employees responded to the fire.

The company has more than 30 locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

The Goldsboro complex is advertised as income-based housing open to people at least 62 years old.

The complex has 44 one bed room apartments, four of which are equipped for handicapped individuals.