PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WRBL) – Monday morning, a clean-up crew was clearing destruction from a fire — when they made a shocking discovery in the debris. Nearly a month after the blaze at the Highridge Mobile Home Park, crews found a body in a burned home. Now, neighbors are demanding answers.
Neighbors tell News 3 they had been smelling something foul since last Friday when clean-up crews started the demolition.
“Saturday and Sunday we smelled the decomposed body,” one neighbor said. “We thought it was an animal because there were some cats that were in his yard….”
It was not a cat. They soon realized that, for a month, a body has been sitting in the charred remains of the fire. According to Russell County Coroner Arthur Sumbry, Jr., the body is believed to be the owner of the home, Daniel Diaz.
Property manager Mae Evans Lee says Diaz was a longtime resident. Neighbors said they saw him in the daytime before the fire broke out that night.
The Mount Olive Volunteer Fire Department responded to the initial fire on May 9. Multiple departments were called in for backup due to the lack of fire hydrants and water access at the scene. Phenix City Fire Rescue was one department called to the scene, though the area is not under their jurisdiction.
Phenix City Fire Chief says this is not uncommon for rural areas.
“Rural jurisdiction water authority… they’re not required to provide fire protection, water for fire protection,” Kennedy said “So out there in those areas, that’s why you don’t see a lot of fire hydrants.”
Now residents want measures, like fire hydrants, added to their mobile home park to prevent another tragedy. They also have questions… like how the fire started and what took so long for officials to recover the body.
“They need to let everyone in the community know what’s going on so that we can have peace,” a neighbor said. “This isn’t just something someone did in a secluded area where other lives were not put in danger’s way.”
News 3 has reached out to Mount Oliver Volunteer Fire Department regarding the investigation into the fire. We are still awaiting a response.
According to Coroner Sumbry, the body is being sent off to a state crime lab in Montgomery for autopsy and identification.