News

‘All I did was throw a firecracker’; Deadly Ont. house fire may have been sparked by careless use of fireworks

By Azzura Lalani, Hailey Salvian, The London Free Press

Middlesex OPP investigators want to talk to anyone who was "in the area," of Tuesday's deadly fire that killed a young Dorchester man.

"At this time the surrounding neighbours have been spoken too. It is believe that others may have had interactions with the fire survivor and have not yet had the opportunity to speak to investigators," said a news release issued by Middlesex OPP Thursday.

A 21-year-old fast-food worker is dead, and his girlfriend remains in critical condition in hospital Thursday morning, after the house fire -- which may have been sparked by careless use of fireworks.

A neighbour who was among the first to respond to the blaze said one occupant emerged from the house saying, “All I did was throw a firecracker.”

Wednesday, the Ontario Provincial Police and fire authorities were tight-lipped about the cause of the Tuesday evening fire in Dorchester, near London.

The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office is investigating.

“What we know right now is three people were in the house, one got out on their own and fire rescue had to get the other two out,” said OPP Const. Adam Crewdson. “One of the people was found (with) vital signs absent and he succumbed to his injuries on the scene and died.”

Ryan Parsons of Thames Centre died in the fallout of the fire at 151 Oakwood Dr., police confirmed.

A second man, 19, whom police did not identify, was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and was later released.

Fire authorities expected their investigation would spill over to Thursday, said Thames Centre fire chief Randy Kalan.

Parsons and the 19-year-old woman were dating, said neighbour Paul Fountain.

The two worked in the same plaza off the nearby Highway 401, said Fountain, who’d known Parsons for about three years.

Parsons’ girlfriend — police did not identify the woman — works at the Petro Canada station beside the A&W restaurant where Parsons worked.

Wednesday, the 24-hour A&W was closed, a sign posted on its door that read: “We are closed for today to mourn the loss of one of our team members.”

From the outside, the yellow-brick bungalow showed no obvious signs of the dramatics the evening before.

Bob Lupa, a neighbour two doors down, was one of the first on the scene that night, springing into action after another neighbour “came banging on the door, saying Ryan’s house is on fire,” he recalled Wednesday.

“I went whipping over (to the house) as soon as I heard and opened the side door, was hollering and I couldn’t see a damn thing from the smoke,” the 67-year-old said.

“Then one of the fellows that rents there came stumbling out all frantic, his hair was all singed from the fire,” Lupa said.

“I kept asking him, ‘where’s Ryan?’ And he was swearing and asking where the fire department was, then he said, ‘All I did was throw a firecracker.’”

As authorities investigated Wednesday, neighbours on the quiet, tree-lined street stood on their lawns consoling each other and watching the scene.

Parsons was “good people,” said Fountain, adding he was supposed to have taken their dogs for a swim in a nearby pond Tuesday.

“I wish I’d come out sooner” to take the dogs out, he said choking up. “I’m kind of upset about that.”

Lupa, who used his garden hose to contain the fire while he and another neighbour waited for firefighters to arrive, also said he wished he “could have done more” to help.

“It’s just senseless. I don’t understand kids and the partying. A young lad like that, his life hasn’t even begun and now he’s gone.”

Lupa said police had been to the house in the past, but he believed Parsons was trying to turn over a new leaf.

The 21-year-old had been picking up extra shifts and working full-time at the A&W and recently expressed his excitement to Lupa about paying off one of his “big fines.”

“He was a very hard-working lad. He’s had some problems, but I really believe he was trying to turn his life around,” said Lupa.

An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.

“If there’s a silver lining to all this, it’s that the young lady is able to pull through,” said Lupa. “I’m crossing my fingers for that.”

Police are asking anyone with information or who was in the area of the fire at the time to contact them at 1-888-310-1122. Should you wish to remain anonymous, you may call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), where you may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2000.

alalani@postmedia.com

Hailey.salvian@sunmedia.ca


A 21-year-old is dead after a fire in this home in Dorchester. (MORRIS LAMONT, The London Free Press)