GALLIPOLIS — The victim of Wednesday’s fatal house fire in Gallipolis has been identified as Cleeland Willis.
Willis, 84, was well known to many in Gallia County, particularly through Willis Funeral Home in Gallipolis, a business he founded in the early 1970’s.
Cleeland’s son Matt Willis, who currently operates the funeral home with wife Letty, spoke with the Tribune on Thursday.
“We’re thankful for our community, our firefighters, for our first responders,” Matt said, adding his family was “overwhelmed” with the outpouring of support from residents. “Gallia County is a good place to live in. It’s times like these that we are grateful for everyone.”
As previously reported, firefighters with the Gallipolis Fire Department were initially alerted by an alarm company concerning smoke detectors in the home, quickly followed by dispatchers, shortly after noon on Wednesday, according to Gallipolis Fire Chief Keith Elliott.
Elliott said when firefighters arrived, the fire was spreading “rapidly” from the first floor through to the attic. The home is located near the intersection of state routes 7 and 141 in Gallipolis on Portsmouth Road.
Cleeland was later pronounced dead at the scene.
Though the point of origin for the fire appears to be the first floor at this time, the cause remains undetermined, Elliott told the Tribune on Wednesday.
Investigating the fire are personnel with the Ohio State Fire Marshal and the Gallipolis Police Department. No other injuries were reported. Though the home suffered damage from the fire, no other neighboring properties were reportedly affected.
Providing mutual aid on the scene were personnel with the Point Pleasant Fire Department. The scene was cleared around 4:30 p.m., Elliott said. Also assisting at the scene, Gallia County Coroner Dr. Daniel Whiteley.
Cleeland’s obituary appears inside today’s edition of the Tribune.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publising.