A frantic knock on the door of their Green Street home alerted a Stephenville family to a Monday night fire raging in their backyard. A neighbor who lives at a mobile home park directly behind the residence was the first to spot the blaze.
Jerry “Seaweed” Sechrist said he was in bed when he heard someone banging on the door.
“When I answered the door, the neighbor said my shed was on fire,” Sechrist said. “I got up and ran out back.”
As he approached the backyard, Sechrist saw flames engulfing the wooden shed.
One end of the building housed tools and other supplies while the other had been converted into a makeshift apartment.
Donnie Angel, 34, nephew of Seaweed’s wife Shirley, had set up residence in the shed.
Sechrist said Angel, formerly of Lampasas, had only lived in the shed for a short time. While the makeshift home was equipped with electricity, it was modestly accommodated with a twin bed, couch and basic necessities.
Sechrist said at the time of the fire, he was not sure if Angel was home. Sechrist grabbed a water house to try and douse the flames.
According to Fire Chief Jimmy Chew, dispatch received a call for help at 11:27 p.m.
Once the fire was under control, it was apparent that Angel had been home. His body was located on the floor, near the shed’s door.
Sechrist said fire officials also located a space heater inside the shed.
“I didn’t even know he had a heater in there,” Sechrist said.
While fire officials said they are not ready to comment on the cause of the fire, citing an ongoing investigation, Stephenville Police Chief Roy Halsell said the department is conducting a death investigation. He said police department involvement is typical in fatal fires and added that police involvement does not necessarily point to foul play.
“We have sent the body off for autopsy,” Halsell said. “That is our standard procedure.”
Lt. Don Miller with the criminal investigation division said local officials have called in the state fire marshal for help.
“We do not currently have a fire marshal,” Miller said. “So we have called on the state fire marshal’s office to assist in the investigation. There is not much more I can say. This is an ongoing investigation and until we know the cause of the fire, there is nothing more to add.”
According to the Web site for the Texas Department of Insurance, www.tdi.state.tx.us, the state fire marshal is the chief investigator in charge of arson and suspected arson in the state of Texas.
Chew said at 4 p.m. Tuesday that Cody Derrick, the city’s fire inspector, and a representative of the state office were investigating the scene.