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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A man died late Monday night after flames swept through his home near the Fair Park area of Dallas. It happened at around 10:30 p.m. in the 4000 block of Spring Avenue, and family members said that his recently upgraded electric meter might be to blame.
The family actually owns three homes in a row on this street. It was the home in the middle that caught on fire, killing a beloved elderly man. Flames and smoke were shooting out of the front of the structure when firefighters first arrived on the scene.
Emergency crews quickly extinguished the flames and found the body of 74-year-old James Humphrey Jr. inside of the burned single-story home. Fire investigators are now working to determine the cause of the blaze.
Alfreda Johnson is the victim’s cousin, and she believes that she already knows the cause of the fire. Workers upgraded the electric meter on the home just three weeks ago. “These people keep coming out here, doing what they want to do to these old houses,” she said.
Dallas Fire-Rescue investigators are taking Johnson’s claims seriously. The new smart meter was located on the outside of the house by a front bedroom, where the heaviest damage occurred and where the man was found dead.
And this is not the first time that such an incident has happened to this family. There was a fire at Johnson’s own home back in 2011. “Caught on fire due to a smart meter,” she added. “They told me it caught on fire from the meter. Nothing was ever done about it.”
Oncor issued a statement regarding the fire.
“Our thoughts are with the family in this difficult time. We are working closely with the Dallas Fire Department to understand the cause of the fire. While we understand the concerns regarding the meter, it is important to note that due to the nature and function of the advanced meters, there has been no prior instance where such a meter has caused a fire in a dwelling. Nevertheless, we look forward to completing a full investigation.”
Family members also stated that the man had mobility problems that may have prevented him from escaping from the burning home. Fire officials said the home had one smoke detector, and it was found in a bedroom at the back of the house. This would be on the opposite end of the house where it appears the fire occurred. All of these factors likely had a role in this tragedy.