Fatal fire that killed drummer Johnny Gilmore prompts call to action from fire chief

At a press conference held this afternoon to discuss the details of last night’s fatal fire at 212 Fifth St. SW, Fire Chief Charles Werner said his gut reaction to the tragic event was "a great deal of frustration."

"To see such a significant gap [in fire prevention efforts] gives us an understanding that we need to do more," he said.

The fire, which police responded to last night at approximately 9:26pm, began in the second floor bedroom at the apartment of local musician John Fitzgerald Gilmore, known as Johnny. Gilmore’s father, Curtis, returned home shortly after 9pm and saw smoke coming from under the locked door.

Curtis Gilmore was later treated at UVA Hospital for smoke inhalation, and was discharged last night around 11:30pm. John Gilmore, who was also taken to UVA Hospital, was pronounced dead by emergency medical staff.

At this point, it is unclear what caused the fire, but Fire Marshal W.A. Hogsten confirmed that there was "no malice involved."

"We can’t narrow it down until we get the forensics back from the autopsy," he said.

The smoke detector in John Gilmore’s apartment, however, did not have a battery. Werner noted that four other units in the Fifth Street apartment building were equipped with malfunctioning smoke detectors, which he called "unacceptable."

Before leaving the building, fire staff installed smoke detectors in the units. As part of the continued effort to prevent fires, Werner said the Charlottesville Fire Department will install dual-censor smoke detectors in any city home for free. Call 970-3245 for more information.

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