Officials Rule Fatal Manchester (CT) Fire an Accident

An apartment fire that killed a 27-year-old gun enthusiast early Thursday appears to be accidental, reports The Hartford courant.

Firefighters found the body of Thomas LaFontaine in the charred apartment on Chestnut Street, and members of a bomb squad later discovered hundreds of ammunition rounds and three explosive devices that were duds, said David Billings, chief of Manchester Fire-Rescue-EMS.

The fire began near the floor in LaFontaine’s bedroom, between two unholstered chairs, Billings said, although investigators couldn’t pinpoint precisely what sparked it. There were “multiple possible ignition sources,” he said.

Firefighters were delayed in finding LaFontaine because ammunition he had kept in his apartment began exploding, the chief said. None of the ammunition rounds or other devices was illegal, said police Lt. Jeff Lampson.

“Everything was legal,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances.”

The state police bomb squad removed several hundred rounds of ammunition, along with two hand grenades and a mortar shell that “appeared to be inert,” Billings said. It wasn’t clear if the devices were fake.

Residents of 50 apartments were displaced by the fire, he said, but as the day went on, 26 apartments were re-occupied, and the residents of eight more were expected to move back in. Up to 16 would be uninhabitable Thursday night, he said. The American Red Cross and the town’s human services department were working to find the residents temporary housing.

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