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Fire official: food left unattended on stove led to camper fire

Rowan County fire officials say it is likely that William Johnson, 55, fell asleep Monday night as food cooked on the stove inside his camper at the Conestoga Mobile Home Park.

“He did have surgery about a week ago, and we know he was on medication,” said Fire Investigator Deborah Horne.

Horne said they don’t know for sure if Johnson fell asleep, but they do know a neighbor found him and pulled him from the camper. Johnson was already dead, she said.

A neighbor, Mary Boucher, said his family is obviously devastated.

Boucher and her husband have lived in the neighborhood for about 17 years and she said this was the most tragic thing that has occurred there.

She said her husband heard something akin to gunshots and thought maybe neighbors were firing into the air.

“Then he heard a pow,” Boucher said.

A few seconds later, she said, her husband saw smoke coming from near the camper.

Boucher said she’s baffled as to how Johnson was allowed to live in the camper despite the surrounding mobile homes in the development. She considered it dangerous because there was only one way in and out.

She knew Johnson through her grandson who knew one of Johnson’s relatives, who also lives in the mobile home park.

A few of Johnson’s relatives live in the mobile home park, including an aunt who lives next door. A post reporter went to the mobile home park and made attempts to reach family members.

Boucher said one relative heard of Johnson’s death on social media site, Facebook.

The fire started around 7 p.m. and fire officials remained at the scene after 9 p.m. The mobile home park is located off Gaskey Road about a quarter mile off Airport Road.

Locke Fire, China Grove, Landis and Franklin Fire departments responded as did the Rowan County Rescue Squad and Rowan EMS. The Rowan County Fire Marshal’s Office was called in to investigate. Investigators with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office were also called to the scene, which is customary with such an incident, officials said.

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