News Releases

Contact: Steve Holmes
(334) 241-4166
Dauphin Island

A joint investigation conducted by the Alabama State Fire Marshals Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives alongside Dauphin Island and Mobile County officials has determined the fires which occurred in the early morning hours of August 29 were ruled "accidental," according to State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk.

Paulk says the fire which occurred first and ultimately destroyed a restaurant "was traced back to a smoker grill at the restaurant."

While firefighters were busy with the business fire, a residential fire was also called in about three miles away. Before being extinguished, the second fire spread to three other houses, leading to the destruction of four homes. Again, evidence gathered during the subsequent investigation determined this fire to have also been accidental. 

"The residential fire began under a home where a boat was being repaired and spread to the other three residences before the flames could be extinguished," the Fire Marshal said.

Although there was one fatality reported during the fires, it has been determined the death was caused by a heart attack suffered by one of the residents who was attempting to salvage belongings from his burning home.  

Title: Sylacauga Man Arrested for Insurance Fraud
Contact: Steve Holmes, PIO
(334) 241-4166

A Sylacauga man was arrested Monday (6/15/2015) after an investigation by the Fraud Division of the Alabama Department of Insurance, State Fire Marshal's Office and the National Insurance Crime Bureau completed their investigation into a suspicious insurance claim.

A Talladega County Grand Jury Indicted Brantley Pearson Shaw, 27, of Sylacauga last week for allegedly filing a false claim against Progressive Insurance Company. 

Shaw is accused of being involved in a single vehicle accident involving his 2008 Harley Davidson Motorcycle on April 5, 2014 in Childersburg, prior to purchasing insurance on the vehicle. Hours after the accident, records indicate the accused purchased an insurance policy on the motorcycle from Progressive. Six days later, a claim was filed for damages estimated at more than $5,000 for an accident that was reported to have happened on the same day, April 11.

Documents and interviews led to the Shaw's indictment for Insurance Fraud, First Degree, which can carry a penalty of from two to twenty years in prison upon conviction.


Title: St. Clair Woman Arrested for Insurance Fraud
Contact: Steve Holmes, PIO
(334) 241-4166

A Cropwell woman was arrested Thursday (6/18/15) after her indictment on charges of Insurance Fraud.

St. Clair County District Attorney Richard Minor reports that Carolyn Bunt, 46, was charged with First Degree Insurance Fraud after her grand Jury indictment last week.

Minor reported that Bunt was "charged with providing false information, resulting in fraudulent insurance payments in excess of $240,000."

Specifically, Bunt is accused of fabricating bills and submitting them to an insurance company for payment, after the death of her daughter, Meredith Ashley Brown, who died at the age of 21 in 2011.

Alabama State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk, whose Fraud Division of the Alabama Department of Insurance began investigating the case in 2014, elaborated that "Insurance Fraud is a crime and will continue to be vigorously pursued here and elsewhere."

"Fraud such as this is, in effect, stealing; stealing not only from the insurance provider but from all insurance consumers through the higher rates the providers must charge," Paulk added.

Bunt turned herself in to St. Clair County Jail Thursday and was promptly released after posting a $10,000 bond. Her arraignment is set for August.

First Degree Insurance Fraud is a Class B Felony and carries a penalty of two to twenty years in prison.

Title: McClain Fire: Arson
Contact: Steve Holmes
(334) 241-4166

Alabama State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk reports that the investigation into the cause of the fire that gutted a house owned by professional football player Rolando McClain has “determined the fire to have been intentionally set.”

Although the fire was the result of arson, no arrests have been made at this time and the investigation continues.

Anyone with information on this or any other suspected Arson case in Alabama is asked contact the Alabama Arson Hotline at 1-800-654-0775, or

Contact: Steve Holmes
(334) 240-4434

February    Smoking and Medical Oxygen


Smoking is the leading factor in home fires involving medical oxygen.


Many people using medical oxygen have other health issues that may prevent them from escaping the fire, responding to a smoke alarm, etc. For this reason, there is no substitute for prevention.


Since the safest place to smoke is outdoors, most of these fires happen when it is too cold to go outside to smoke.


Oxygen makes things burn much faster. Think of what happens when you blow into a fire; it makes the flame bigger. Normally, the air we breathe is about 20% oxygen. The air delivered to patients using medical oxygen therapy is nearly 100%, making it extremely flammable.


Smokers who use home oxygen may understand the need to turn the tank off before lighting up, but may not realize that the danger persists, even when the oxygen isn’t flowing. Oxygen can build up not only in the home, but also on the hair, clothes, and body of the patient and ignite when a heat source—like a cigarette—comes close to the face, causing severe burns.


Facial hair raises the risk of home oxygen therapy-related burns.


There is no safe way to smoke when using home oxygen. Should an individual need to smoke, it is important to first turn off the tank, and wait 10 full minutes before going outside to smoke.


Put a "NO SMOKING" sign in every room where oxygen is used.


More than 1 million people in the United States use home oxygen therapy, and it is on the rise around the world, especially in countries where smoking is increasing, the researchers say.