Man found dead in downtown house fire died of smoke inhalation

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A man found dead inside a home that burned to the ground Monday in downtown Charleston died of smoke inhalation, according to the coroner's office. Fire officials are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.

Crews found the body of 49-year-old Robert Nelson of Charleston in the burned remains of the home just a few hours after putting out the fire.

The Charleston County Coroner's Office says Nelson did not live in the home.

Fire crews with the City of Charleston battled the structure fire on Poinsett Street, just off King Street, that completely destroyed a two-story home that was thought to be vacant. The fire broke out around 5:15 a.m.

Fire spokesman Mark Ruppel says the home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived shortly after 5 a.m. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze.

Fire officials say the cause of the fire is under investigation, but it does not appear to be similar to more than 55 suspected arson fires in the downtown area in the past 10 years.

"Crews arrived to find a large two-story wood framed home fully engulfed," said chief deputy John Tippet. "They had power line issues. A power line had burned off the house and dropped to the street."

It took firefighters 20 to 30 minutes to contain the blaze.

"I looked outside my window and I saw flames about 30-feet high," said Rocco Pasquarello who witnessed the fire and called 911. "The whole house was engulfed in flames and I looked around there was no fire engines and I realized I was probably the first one to see it. I called 911 and as soon as I came downstairs as soon as I came downstairs the fire engines came."

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