Man dies in Columbia fire

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Pictured is the scene of Thursday’s structure fire on North Main Street in Columbia.

A man was pronounced dead at the scene of a Thursday night structure fire.

The Columbia Fire Department was assisted by Columbia police and Columbia EMS personnel about 8:45 p.m. at the scene of a fire inside a living quarters located at the rear of the property of Linnemann Oil Co., 1025 N. Main Street.

The property is directly across the street from Columbia’s police, fire and EMS headquarters. While the Linnemann family owns the small residence, it was being rented to a tenant.

Flames were seen shooting from the roof of the small structure upon firefighter arrival, with heavy smoke seen thereafter. The fire was called in by a passerby.

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal and Monroe County Coroner’s Office were eventually called to the scene to investigate a cause of the blaze and manner of death of the person inside.

Columbia Fire Chief Mike Roediger said the fire originated in the kitchen area of the structure, which is where the victim was found. The fire department had one crew focused on search and rescue at the scene while another worked on extinguishing the blaze, he said.

“The kitchen was fully involved upon arrival, but we knocked it down quickly,” Roediger said. “He had already succumbed by that point.”

John A. Walsh

Monroe County Coroner Bob Hill confirmed that a white male was pronounced deceased at the scene. An autopsy was conducted Monday, with the results showing the man died as a result of smoke inhalation. 

“Using dental records, I positively identified him as John A. Walsh, 55, of Columbia,” Hill said.

Funeral services for Walsh, who was employed at Budnick Converting in Columbia, are set for Saturday at Braun Funeral Home in Columbia. For his full obituary, click here.

Firefighters and other officials remained on scene until about 12:30 a.m. Friday. The fire remains under investigation.

“This is the second fatal fire we’ve had this year,” Roediger said, referring to the April 18 house fire on Summit View Drive that resulted in the death of 86-year-old Carol Saylor. “It sucks, especially around the holidays.”

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