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Investigation into fatal fire continues

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Ted Sullivan
March 6, 2009
— No criminal activity is suspected in the death of a person killed in a fire Thursday morning in Evansville.

"There's nothing leading us to believe that this is going to be anything other than an unfortunate accident," Rock County Sheriff's Capt. Jude Maurer said.


The person likely died of smoke or heat inhalation, he said, and a wood-burning stove was likely the origin of the fire.


Officials have not released the identity of the victim, but Steven Pernot told television station WISC Channel 3 that the victim was his son, Duane Pernot, 34.


An autopsy was done in Madison on Thursday afternoon, but Rock County Coroner Jenifer Keach is waiting for dental records to make a positive identification, she said. She expected the records this afternoon, she said.


The fire broke out at 2:41 a.m. in an Evansville mobile home at 8441 N. Highway 14, Lot 15, across from the Evansville Country Club. Steven Pernot, who lives across the street from the lot, said that is the home of his son, Duane.


A nearby resident reported the fire after hearing the fire pop and a window break, Maurer said.


The victim, who had been at the home since midnight, didn't escape the residence, he said.


Officials found the home ravaged in flames and were unable to enter. Nearby homes were evacuated, but no one else was injured, Maurer said.


Firefighters found the body near what they originally believed to be the bedroom, but now officials believe the body was close to the source of the fire in a common room, he said.


The mobile home was a total loss, but the value of the home was unknown, Evansville Fire Chief Mike Halvensleben said.


The state fire marshal was not called to help with the investigation.


Meanwhile, a second fire broke out at 8:34 a.m. Thursday in an Evansville home at 125 Highland St., Halvensleben said.


The fire started in a coffee maker in the kitchen, he said, and heavy smoke damaged the house.


No one was home at the time, Halvensleben said, and no one was injured.


Twenty-two firefighters in Evansville responded to both fires, he said.


"We really don't have that many fires in the city of Evansville," Halvensleben said. "To have two in one day, it's not very normal to us. We used everything we had."


Stoughton and Brooklyn firefighters, sheriff's deputies, Evansville police and several EMS agencies also assisted on the calls.


Reporter Stacy Vogel contributed to this report

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