An American flag and a United States Air Force flag sat on either side of Frederick Leonard Hayes’ charred driveway Friday afternoon as fire officials gathered to provide information about the mobile home fire that killed the man in the early hours of Dec. 29.
Hayes, 73, was an Air Force Veteran who had lived in the west Eugene Daneland mobile home for at least a dozen years, according to fire officials and neighbors who knew him. Friends and family of the man referred to him as Shad.
Standing in front of the blackened scene, Eugene Springfield Fire Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Amy Linder said that Hayes died of smoke inhalation after an electrical fire ignited the the blaze. The home was completely destroyed.
Linder said that a number of factors likely contributed to Hayes’ death, including an “overabundance of personal belongings,” year-round holiday lighting and decor and a lack of space to easily move through and out of the home. Outside of Hayes’ home a number of ornaments and other items hung from a nearby tree and other belongings could be seen sitting near the edge of the home.
“He had an affinity for collecting and decor, both inside and outside of his home,” Linder said. “From the descriptions provided (by family and friends) and as you can see behind me, Shad had an overabundance of personal belongings and enjoyed holiday lighting and decor year-round. Both of these characteristics were contributing factors in this tragedy.”
The home was fully engulfed in flames when fire crews were called to the scene around 3:30 a.m. on the last Saturday of 2018. Once the blaze was contained, firefighters located Hayes’ body just inside of the sliding glass door nearest to his bedroom toward the back of the house. The fire ignited in the carport near the front of the house.
It’s unclear at what point Hayes became aware of the blaze, Liner said. She described Hayes as a man with limited mobility.
Although fire officials could not identify exactly which electrical cord or plug-in ignited the fire, they said an investigation showed that there were multiple power strips and extension cords connected to each other inside and outside of the home near the car port.
“Investigators found numerous instances of improper use of extension cords, power strips and electrical lighting both inside and outside of the home, including daisy-chaining of extension cords that were plugged into power strips (and) multi-tap adapters,” Linder said.
The fire destroyed one unit, Linder said, and a neighboring unit suffered some damage.
Hayes was described by his neighbor Joe Clifford as a “free soul.”
“He was a well-educated, nice man,” Clifford said. “I would help him with things from time to time, he was a large guy who wasn’t able to move around very well, but he was a good guy. I was really sad to learn of his death.”
At the Friday press conference Liner said the tragedy is a good reminder for others to ensure that their smoke alarms are working properly, that they have a plan to escape their home in the event of an emergency and to use power strips, extension cords and decorative lights only as recommended.
Follow Alisha Roemeling on Twitter @alisharoemeling. Email [email protected]