TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A Terre Haute man died Tuesday morning after his home on Fort Harrison road caught fire.
“There was a report of an elderly person trapped in the house. There were flames coming out of the front of the building of the house. They made entry and after they extinguished the flames they found a victim that was on the couch,” said Assistant Chief Norm Loudermilk of the Terre Haute Fire Department.
According to the Vigo County Coroner, 76-year-old Vernon Matlock died from a heart attack as a result of the fire.
Terre Haute fire officials said the fire was ruled as an accident and is their first fatal in four years.
“It appears that this individual had some medical problems and was on oxygen and was smoking while he was on oxygen,” Loudermilk said.
Fire Chief Jeff Fisher said the low number of fire-related deaths in Terre Haute is in part to consistent training of firefighters and paramedics.
“Just like a professional athlete, we’re professional firefighters, so we train daily. We constantly educate ourselves on techniques,” Fisher said.
They also attribute it to educating the public.
“People need to be mindful of their surroundings when it comes to open flames. Whether it may be oxygen, gasoline, diesel, kerosene or whatever it may be. Just make sure you keep the fire away from the combustibles and the flammables,” said Fisher.
Fire officials add they hope to not see any other fatal fires in the future.
“It’s just a very sad day. We feel very sorry for the family and for what they’ve had to go through. And our condolences are going out to them,” Loudermilk said.
According to officials, one of the victim’s daughters was in the home with him at the time of the fire. She was able to make it out safely.