Today's Paper Arkansas News LEARNS Guide Legislature Sports Core Values Puzzles Newsletters Public Notices Archive Obits Opinion Story Ideas

One dies in fire at Jonas Williams Upholstery

by I.C. Murrell | March 23, 2022 at 2:52 a.m.
Joseph Trotter, 71, and Jimmie Lee Jr., 37, both of Pine Bluff, discuss how a fire at Jonas Williams Upholstery -- where Lee said he resided -- possibly started Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

A male was found dead in a Tuesday morning fire at a long-standing upholstery business near Lake Saracen in Pine Bluff.

Authorities had not confirmed the identity of the victim as of Tuesday afternoon.

Five fire crews were dispatched to Jonas Williams Upholstery at 9:26 a.m., according to a report from Pine Bluff Fire & Emergency Services. The structure sustained heavy fire and smoke damage.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation.

Entergy, Pine Bluff police and the Jefferson County coroner's office responded along with the fire crews. There were 14 firefighters at the scene.

The scene cleared at 11:14 a.m. A value for structural or content loss has not been established.

Jimmie Lee Jr., 37, who has lived at the property "off and on" since childhood, said he noticed smoke when he walked back from a nearby store.

"So, I said, either somebody's cooking, or something else happened," Lee said. "When I came back, the door was open. It was cracked. I was looking, and I said to myself, any wind that comes in is going to intensify the fire, which that's what happened. The other guy, he was laying down. I asked, 'Where's the fire coming from?' He said, 'It must be coming back from there,' which it was.

"So, now, it was coming outside the house. It went from white smoke to black smoke -- bam!"

Joseph Trotter, 71, a physician, owns two properties near the upholstery store, an old service station and a soon-to-be bed and breakfast near Lake Saracen. He was heading back to one of his properties at about 9:35 a.m., he said, when he saw Lee walking near the building with white smoke coming from it.

"I thought it was my building," he said.

Instead, it was a business that Trotter believes has been operating at the same location for at least 60 years. Trotter attended Merrill High School nearby in the early years of the store, which he said was owned by the father of the present owner, Jonas Williams.

Trotter said the living quarters were at the back of the business.

"I'm not really sure what happened. I'm not sure, and I won't speculate, but it started in the back," Trotter said, despite the open investigation. "That, we know for sure."

  photo  Jonas Williams Upholstery, 707 W. Pullen Ave., has been a mainstay in Pine Bluff for more than 60 years, according to Joseph Trotter, who owns two properties nearby. The upholstery store caught fire Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

Print Headline: 1 killed in fire at upholstery business


Sponsor Content