Fatal Middletown fire: ‘House is on fire, there’s an old man in the house’ 911 caller says

A woman called the Middletown 911 center Monday night and told a dispatcher that the “house is on fire. There is an old man in the house.”

That call referenced a fire 900 block of Sixth Avenue that claimed the life of 71-year-old James “Butch” Gann.

At first, the caller did not know what street she was on, then someone standing nearby said it was Sixth Avenue.

The woman, then using a different cell phone, is heard saying, “Mom, dad’s house is on fire.”

A few seconds later, the dispatcher tells the woman that no one should walk into the burning house.


The fire is not suspicious, and the fact that Gann was in a wheelchair played a role in his not escaping, Middletown’s fire chief said this morning.

Chief Paul Lolli said the area was investigated by the department’s canine that searches for accelerants, and nothing was detected. The cause was also not electrical, Lolli said.

Determining the cause of this fire could be challenging, Lolli said.

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