S.C. Fire Chief Dies Following House Fire

LANCASTER, S.C. -- The chief of a Lancaster County fire department died Tuesday morning, shortly after helping battle a blaze that destroyed a house in Lancaster, fire officials say.

Dennis Cauthen, 54-year-old chief of the Elgin Volunteer Fire Department, became ill at the fire station and died a short time later at a hospital, Lancaster County Fire Marshal Stephen Blackwelder said.

He was a 31-year veteran of the fire service, Blackwelder said.

Cauthen and his department were among dozens of firefighters called to battle a blaze reported about 2:45 a.m. at a vacant house in the 900 block of 15th Street in Lancaster. The Elgin firefighters were able to leave the scene and return to their station shortly before 6 a.m.

"Shortly thereafter, Chief Cauthen began feeling bad," Blackwelder said. "His fellow firefighters called for EMS and began administering medical attention."

Cauthen was taken to Springs Memorial Hospital in Lancaster but died about 8 a.m. The cause of death is unknown.

Cauthen and his wife, Teresa, had three children and four grandchildren. Cauthen also is survived by his parents, Blackwelder said.

Firefighters had reported intense flames and heavy smoke coming from the house when they arrived. Crews were forced to go into a defensive position, in an effort to keep flames from spreading to nearby buildings. One neighboring house was damaged by flames, authorities say.

There is no word as to what caused the fire.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service