First African-American football player at UofL killed in fire - WDRB 41 Louisville News

First African-American football player at UofL killed in house fire

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The first African-American football player at the University of Louisville is killed in a house fire. Fire officials believe an electrical short in a space heater caused the blaze.

The family of Lawrence Simmons says he was in his bedroom when the fire broke out around 10 a.m. Saturday. Arson investigators say the fire started between Simmons and his bedroom door.

The house had been converted into a number of apartments. Several others who lived there escaped.

Simmons' family says the 79-year-old was a retired teacher and the first African American football player at U of L.

"You know, major colleges at one time they didn't have any blacks participating in sports. It's just a great part of history," said Norman Simmons, brother.

Fire Chief Greg Frederick says there were no working smoke detectors in the home. Many of them had batteries, but they weren't fully attached.

The person who owns the home disputes that claiming the smoke detectors were working.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An electrical short in a space heater is believed to be the cause of deadly house fire in western Louisville.

Fire investigators say the fire began around 10 a.m. Saturday. Arson investigators say it started after a short in a space heater caught fire to a bedroom in basement apartment of a rooming house on Oak Street. The fire, which was said to be rather small, broke out between an elderly man inside and his bedroom door, according to Capt. Sal Melendez with Louisville Fire and Rescue.

Fire officials say the man who died was in his 80s. Several others in the neighboring apartments of the house escaped unharmed. Chief Greg Frederick said the house had no working smoke detectors, which further complicated the matter.

Frederick says his main concern is that there were no working fire alarms. The owner of the home who did not want to go on camera , but contends the smoke detectors were in working order.

Melendez later clarified to say the smoke detectors had batteries, but many of them were detached, meaning the alarms couldn't be tripped. The smoke detector in the basement where the fire broke out fell off the wall, detaching the battery, he said.

The fire started around 10:20 a.m. in the basement unit of a 4 unit apartment house. Frederick says the Metro Arson Squad will assess the situation further.

The name of the man who died has not been released. 

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