Elderly Gulfport couple dies in house fire

By Doug Walker – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The home on South Pine Street is a total loss, with nothing left except the charred memories of the two people who lived there.

Firemen spent Monday morning putting out hot spots.  Investigators with the state fire marshal's office sifted through the rubble searching for clues.

The neighbors who knew 74-year-old James Dennis and his 67-year-old wife, Patricia, were left wondering what happened.

"He always walked his dog, he was good about walking his dog," Betty Bennett remembered.  "Now I didn't see her out that much because she was a cancer survivor."

The neighbors we talked to were shocked and saddened by this tragedy.  They said they were a couple that kept to themselves mostly, but were very friendly. In fact Mr. Dennis even brought in the neighbors' trash cans from time to time.

"They were friendly," neighbor Brian Dace remembered. "They would come out sometimes and clean up their yard and things like that, and so this is just really a very horrible tragedy."

And it's a tragedy that could possibly have been prevented, according to another neighbor, Diana Roberts.

"The concern that we have is there are no fire hydrants in this neighborhood, in this half of the neighborhood," Roberts said.  "The crew last night had to go three streets or more over to find a working fire hydrant."

That meant putting out the fire required a convoy of pumper trucks and hoses to get water to the home.  Fire officials also said it was a very dangerous fire to bring under control.

In the end, neither the home or the two people inside could be saved.

The Dennis' left behind an adult daughter who lives in Virginia.  She is now on her way to the coast.

As for the lack of hydrants, city spokesman Ryan LaFontaine e-mailed us saying any comment now would be nothing more than speculation, and the city is investigating.  A voice mail message for Mayor George Schloegel was not returned.  Today was a city holiday.

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