SMITHFIELD – The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office has released the identity of an elderly man who died in a house fire Sunday morning. The body of 79 year-old Ray Jernigan was found inside his home after the flames were extinguished.
At 3:36am Sunday, a neighbor called 911 reporting Jernigan’s home at 3508 Stevens Sausage Road was on fire. The Smithfield, Brogden, and Pine Level Fire Departments responded. When they arrived they found the home fully engulfed in flames and the roof had already collapsed. It took an hour to bring the blaze under control.
Johnston County Fire Marshal Adam Stanley said the fire started in the bedroom area and the possible cause was an electrical space heater. Stanley said it is important for all home occupants to keep at least three feet clearance around all heating appliances and to check your smoke alarms.
The fire is expected to be ruled accidental.