Elderly man found dead following apartment fire

An 89-year-old man found dead Wednesday in an early morning apartment fire in southeast Atlanta died of smoke inhalation, authorities said.

The fire was reported just before 4:30 a.m. at the Memorial Heights Apartments in the 1400 block of Memorial Drive, in the DeKalb County portion of southeast Atlanta.

Atlanta fire Battalion Chief David Rhodes told the AJC that when firefighters arrived, they found a “very small fire coming from a hot plate in an apartment” that they put out with just a fire extinguisher.

“In the process of searching the unit, they did find an elderly male who was deceased,” Rhodes said.

Firefighters initially thought the man, who has not been identified, died of natural causes prior to the fire, but the DeKalb Medical Examiner later said the cause of death was smoke inhalation.

Rhodes said that the hot plate “probably was on for a couple of hours. The food had burned into it. It caught on fire and set a chair on fire beside it, but [the chair] just smoldered.”

The fire, which Rhodes said caused no structural damage to the two-room apartment, was the fourth blaze overnight in DeKalb.

Earlier, firefighters doused fires at a home on Cloverdale Drive in south DeKalb and at apartment buildings on Place Fontaine near Lithonia and on Austin Circle in north DeKalb. The only injury in those fires was a minor injury to the homeowner on Cloverdale Drive.

-- Staff photographer John Spink contributed to this article.