One man dead after Ensley fire, Birmingham fire suspects space heater

An 89-year-old man died in an early-morning fire at this Ensley home, Thursday, January 16, 2014. (

"He was a nice man," Maria Wade said. "Real nice man."

Wade says her neighbor died too soon.

"He will be surely missed," she said. "He will be surely missed."

The victim's daughter, who did not want to talk{}on camera,{}identified her father as 89-year-old James Thomas Riley. He died early Thursday morning after his duplex apartment in Ensley caught fire. The daughter says she doesn't know what caused it, but Fire Chief C. W. Mardis, might.

"The victim had a gas space heater in his room of origin and that's what we're looking at right now as potentially a cause," he said.

And if that is the case it would be the third fire fatality due to space heaters in 2014 in the Birmingham area.

"It is aggravating," Lt. Bryan Harrell said. "It's disheartening."

Lt. Harrell says space heater fires are preventable.

"We want you to really pay attention," he said. "It could save your life."

He says look for laboratory approved items when buying space heaters. Also, keep the space heater clean with no loose wiring. And don't forget the "three-feet" rule: all the way around it make sure there are no clothes, drapes, curtains or anything that could catch fire.

It's also not a good idea for extension cords because they could spark. And, as always, Lt. Harrell says to keep space heaters out of bathrooms because of water.

Wade says the death of her neighbor is opening her eyes.

"It is a wake up call to us," she said. "Those heaters, stoves...we can't go to sleep with stuff left on. We got to be careful at all of this because, I mean, it causes major damage."

Chief Mardis also says he does not believe the victim's apartment had a working smoke detector.