Authorities order autopsy for woman who died in brush fire
By Michael Wetzel
For the Enquirer
The body of a 63-year-old Somerville woman who died in a brush fire near her home Monday afternoon was sent to the state forensics office for an autopsy to determine the cause of death, the coroner said.
Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn said Priscilla Parisa was pronounced dead at 2:11 p.m. He said his office received the call at 1:48 p.m. The fatality occurred on Nelson Hollow Road, authorities said.
“It was unusual,” said Chunn. “Apparently (the victim and her husband) were trying to put a brush fire out, and she fell in. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like that in my 12 years as coroner.”
According to the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, her husband was taken by Lifeguard ambulance service to Decatur Morgan Hospital to be treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.
Chunn said it is possible the victim had a medical event, such as a heart attack, and collapsed. He said he could not determine an exact cause of death.
He said apparently the victim and her husband were burning brush on their property, and the fire got out of control. They used water from a nearby creek and rakes to fight the flames when Parisa apparently fell toward the fire, Chunn said.
Sheriff’s spokesman Mike Swafford said the couple was burning brush about 80 yards down a hill from their house.
“It was in a wooded area, and no water connection was nearby,” he said.
He said eight officers with the sheriff’s office responded to the scene.
“We had two investigators on the scene,” he said. “Any time there is an unattended or unique death like this one, it comes with an investigation to rule out anything else.”
John Stinson, president of the Morgan County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments, said the Somerville and Priceville fire departments helped extinguish the blaze.
“I don’t recall (a fatality) like this ever happening,” he said. “People need to take precautions to keep a fire under control when burning brush.”
He urged people not to burn brush piles on windy days, to have a water hose nearby if possible and to have a shovel at the burn site.
“Also have dirt around a clean area at your burn area so the fire can’t spread,” Stinson said. “You can also use the shovel to beat the fire once it tries to spread.
“Try not to burn on windy days. A fire creates its own wind, and the blaze can get out of hand quickly.”
Stinson said control burns of more than a quarter of an acre require a permit from the Alabama Forestry Commission. For information on permits, contact 800-392-5679.