Article 25

Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

To Live and Die Outdoors

In Uncategorized on 01/06/2012 at 9:28 pm

A memorial to William "Baldy" Floyd. Photo by Jon Hughes/Photopresse.

A fire captures the grotesque reality

By Gregory Flannery


Photographs of Baldy proliferated following his death in a fire Nov. 28, 2010. Makeshift shrines testified to the fact that he was well known among his homeless neighbors. The photos show him smiling, giving no indication of the horror that attended his final minutes.

To get a sense of what happened, one can look at the last photographs ever taken of Baldy, as William Floyd was known. But they are not for the faint of heart. The photos show a charred corpse, blackened like a piece of meat left too long on the grill, one arm and the stump of the other – the remainder having been burned off – raised upright, as if pleading to heaven for help.

The Hamilton County Coroner ruled the death accidental, the result of smoke inhalation. He had a carbon monoxide saturation of 33 percent. Cutaneous burns were a contributory cause of death. Baldy, 44, was so badly burned that “the facial features are non-discernible.” His left forearm and left foot were burned off. His scalp was gone.

He died within minutes, according to his autopsy. Toxicology reports showed he was so drunk, in addition to having valium and marijuana in his system, that he likely felt nothing.

Dispatch records show that the first call about a fire came in at 9:58 p.m. Five minutes later dispatchers were advised of heavy flames: “May get a lot of calls.” Passing drivers did, in fact, call 911.

At 10:10 p.m. firefighters at the scene reported, “Possible victim.” Fourteen minutes later came the news, “One fire victim, fatality.” He was pronounced dead at 10:30 p.m.

Baldy had been warned that night, according to witnesses. He was visiting Lee Carpenter and Tammy Alter. Carpenter’s hand-built stood a house just a few dozen yards from the shack Baldy inhabited.

“When B came down that day, he had his fire going for a little bit,” Carpenter said. “And we had come down and looked at it, you know, and knocked it down a little bit because he was sitting down there with us. I said, ‘That’s a bad thing to do. Don’t ever walk away and leave the fire going next to your house without you – somebody being there.’ I said, ‘You’re asking for an accident.’ So we knocked it down.

“As he was coming down, as he left the house that night, I said, ‘Look, don’t build your fire up. Go down there. Crawl into your blankets. Wrap up real good. If you get really cold, don’t worry about starting your fire. Come down here, holler at me. Come inside here. I’ll take and build a fire up in our barrel, and you can sack out next to the barrel and stay warm.’

“What he did instead of listening to that, he came down, grabbed an armful of those bottom pieces of those skids, broke them up and threw them on top of the fire to get it going real good. Sat there for a couple of minutes, crawled into the blankets and fell – passed out, because he was already 95 percent of the way inebriated.”

Alter, the last person to see Baldy alive, called the fire department on her cell phone. She vividly remembers the night of the fire. She also remembers cracks she had made about his dilapidated shack.

“I mean, as much of a pain in the butt that he was, I wouldn’t have wished that upon nobody,” she said. “I mean, I’ve joked with him a couple of times. You know, stuff like, ‘Why don’t you just burn this thing down? Burn it down to the ground and come and live with us.’ (He said,) ‘Oh, I can’t do that. This is my home. I built it.’ He built it. But I joked with him about it. That crossed my mind, joking with him about it.”

Carpenter was burned trying to rescue Baldy.

“The inside was totally engulfed,” he said.” I’m standing inside of it in an inferno. She watched me run through a wall of flame, and she’s screaming her head off. I got to this point, went to reach in and try — well, I was actually going to try and take a step, grab his foot and drag him out. And as I reached in, the roof of his house collapsed.

“Right when it did, you know, flames just blasted back up across me. It actually burned the side of my face as well. You can see where the beard’s still patchy from it. I turned around, and about that time Butch, this psycho that lived over here, actually had a couple of boxes of .22 ammunition that he had stashed in there. I started hearing, ‘Pop! Pop!’ I turned around, ran.”

Alter couldn’t move.

“I stood there like a deer in the headlights watching the fire,” she said.

“And screaming at me because she figured I was going, you know, I was going right along with him,” Carpenter said.

Firefighters needed about 30 minutes to extinguish the blaze, according to Carpenter.

“So they had to get in there with a crane and lift it up before they could even actually get to the body,” he said. “And they said that the body was burnt, so badly burnt, it was burned beyond recognition. They were only able to identify him by … one tattoo on his left shoulder, because that was the side that he was laying on. That was the only part of skin that wasn’t destroyed.”

One of Alter’s kittens also died in the blaze.

The total property loss from the fire, the net value of William “Baldy” Floyd’s earthly possessions, was estimated at $100.