VALDOSTA -- A fire early Saturday claimed the life of a boarding house resident and closed the J.M. Beck overpass on U.S. 41 for nearly four hours.

Charlie Evans, 64, 102 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, died in his room, said Valdosta Fire Department Battalion Chief John Wisenbaker. The other seven residents of the boarding house owned by Dr. L.W. Williams, a local dentist, were not injured during the blaze.

The VFD and the Valdosta Police Department responded to the 911 call shortly after midnight. They arrived on the scene to find the building fully involved, and the second alarm blaze had 22 firefighters on the scene.

"The fire took a couple of hours to get under control because fire fighters were unable to enter the building," Wisenbaker said. "We did overhaul until later the next day."

Wisenbaker said overhaul is when the firefighters dig through the debris in order to extinguish flareups. Small spot fires continued to flare up, he said, because the house had collapsed.

Evans' body was discovered at the back of the structure after the fire was extinguished said Lt. Brian Childress, public information office with the Valdosta Police Department. Police closed the road because of heavy smoke and debris, Childress said. The roof of the two-story structure is within 20 feet of the J.M. Beck overpass.

Both Wisenbaker and Childress said their departments are investigating the cause of the fire. Wisenbaker said the house will have to be demolished in order to do a complete investigation.



To contact Tanya B. O'Berry, call 244-3400, ext. 239.

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