Gautier couple found dead in home identified

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - What began as a routine police officer wellness check on an elderly Gautier couple Thursday morning turned into something much more tragic. Inside, Donnie and Marge Gum were found dead, the victims of a house fire.

When the call came in around 5am, firefighters knew this fire was different than most.

"We conducted a forced entry into the structure and while conducting our search, we found what we classify as a cold fire. A fire that has actually burned itself out," Gautier Fire Chief Ray Frair explained. "But while conducting a search and rescue of the structure, we found two victims in various locations."

He said the fire appears to be an accident.

"The fire started in the kitchen, it was contained in the kitchen, it contained itself. There's heavy smoke damage to the rest of the structure, some heat damage out away from the kitchen," Frair said.

Anytime a person or persons lose their lives in a house fire, it's tragic. What makes this incident even more tragic is fire officials believe it could have been prevented.

"This particular structure had no smoke detectors in it at all, whether working or non-working," Frair said. "Had they had a early warning device such as a smoke detector, I think they would have been out here talking to us today."

Meanwhile, the investigation continues by local and state authorities.

"We're waiting on the autopsy from the Jackson County coroner and then we'll wait for the insurance investigator to come and verify our findings," Fire Marshal Charles Thornburg said.

Fire officials stress the importance of having working smoke detectors in your home. Several coast cities, including Gautier, offer programs that provide free smoke detectors and even installation. If you need a smoke detector, call the Gautier Fire Department at (228) 497-1656.

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