Bloomingburg man, 23, killed in fire

Ryan Carter

January 9, 2014

A 23-year-old Fayette County man was killed Tuesday, Jan. 7 in a house fire at 8428 state Route 38 Northeast, north of Bloomingburg.

The fire trapped Joshua G. Helsel inside of the house and on Tuesday night he was pronounced dead at the scene by Fayette County Coroner Dr. Dennis Mesker.

According to Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, a passing motorist contacted the Sheriff’s Office at 1:18 p.m. Tuesday and reported seeing heavy smoke coming from the residence, which is the home of Ronald and Lori Helsel. Firefighters from the Bloomingburg Paint-Marion Township Fire Department were dispatched to the scene and found a “working structure fire.”

Additional fire departments from Fayette County and Madison County were called for mutual aid.

Stanforth and deputies arrived on the scene and made contact with a family member of the homeowners in an adjacent dwelling. The family member said that the Helsel’s son may be inside of the home.

Firefighters fought the blaze for several hours to contain the fire and then searched inside the home. At approximately 6:45 p.m., firefighters found the body of Joshua Helsel, according to Stanforth.

Members of the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office were called to the scene to assist in the investigation. According to Fire Marshal investigators, the fire did not appear to be suspicious in nature.

Helsel attended Columbus State Community College during the day and worked the third shift at FedEx. School was closed Tuesday, and Helsel was asleep at home after returning from work that morning. The fire at the Helsel home engulfed the house so quickly, the man was not able to escape the building.

Josh Helsel’s parents, Ron and Lori Helsel, have not only lost their beloved son, they have lost their home and virtually all personal belongings, according to friends of the family. The family’s landscaping business was based in the home, so one of the family’s primary sources of income has also been severely impacted. Unfortunately, the home was not insurable because of the age of the structure.

The Bloomingburg Fire Department was assisted at the scene by the Pic-A-Fay (New Holland), Jefferson Township, and Washington Court House fire department from Fayette County, and the Range Township and Central Township fire departments from Madison County. Also assisting at the scene were members of the Fayette County E.M.S. and Fayette County Emergency Management Agency.

The Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the Helsel family. The Miami Trace Local School District sent a bus to the scene to serve as a heating shelter for the many firefighters.

Friends of the Helsel family have set up a special fund at Huntington National Bank to accept contributions to assist with funeral arrangements and the immediate emergency needs and care for the family. Anyone who wishes to make a contribution to the fund may visit any Huntington National Bank and make a deposit to The Helsel Family Fund; the bank representative will be able to look up the fund account and take care of the deposit. Checks made payable to The Helsel Family Fund may also be sent to: Cindy Southward, Equine Affaire, Inc., 2720 state Route 56 S.W., London, OH 43140. Mrs. Southward will notify the family of all contributions and also take care of depositing contributions upon receipt.

Lori Helsel’s employer, London-based Equine Affaire, Inc., is “also accepting items donated to the family to assist them in rebuilding their lives,” according to a release from the organization. Those wanting to help or for more information are asked to contact Cindy Southward at (740) 845-0085, ext. 102 or

The Bloomingburg Paint-Marion Township Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are continuing their investigation into the cause of the fire.