UPDATED- Baltimore City FD Lieutenant James Bethea found dead in building hours after fire

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Lt. James Bethea – Photo courtesy Stanley Jaworski

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Baltimore City Fire Department Chief Niles Ford announced at a late morning press conference the death of Lt. James Bethea. The body of the 40-year-veteran was found in a building in the 700 block of East North Avenue, the same block as a rowhouse fire this morning. Lt. Bethea’s body was found in a dwelling next door to the one that burned.

Raw video of press conference with Chief Niles Ford

Bethea, 62, was a department safety officer. His body was discovered hours about three hours after the fire when an off-duty firefighter reported that Bethea’s department SUV was still in the block where the fire occurred.

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Picture shot by Stanley Jaworski this (Wednesday) morning in 700 block of E. North Avenue shows Lt. Bethea on the left

According to WBFF-TV the department is “investigating how fire safety officer died & the lapse in time between when he died & when he was discovered.”

While there are no details from fire officials on how Lt. Bethea died and a joint police and fire department investigation is underway, is reporting that Lt. Bethea died due to injuries from a fall:

It is with deep regret that we pass on to you that a Baltimore City veteran FD Safety Officer Lt James Bethea was found dead today at the scene of a fire that occurred last night. He apparently fell down 8′ while performing his job.

The Safety Officer car had been in front of 708 E. North Ave since the fire last night. Initial reports are that Lt Bethea had gone to check exposures for safety concerns and while doing so, fell 8′ into the abandoned structure-remaining there unnoticed initially. 
An off duty Firefighter reported seeing the SO 2 vehicle on the block. Assistance was sent and the members searched and found him gone in the basement of the delta exposure. Our condolences to all affacted. Much more to follow. RIP.

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“We don’t know exactly what caused his death,” fire department officials said at a press conference Wednesday. “That is being investigated at this time.”

According to officials the safety officer was “put in service” at 3:30 a.m. His car was found around 8:30 a.m. The department is looking into why he the safety official was put into service.

Fire Chief Niles Ford said Bethea was not just a member of the department, but he was also a mentor. “He was a fatherly figure,” Ford said. “We’re going to do a serious and thorough investigation. We’re going to be extremely open about what happens here.”

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