Mt. Sterling man dies in house fire

Mt. Sterling house fire

A Mt. Sterling man who died in a weekend house fire died of smoke inhalation, the Schuyler County Coroner said.

Matthew Alan Ratcliff, 54, was taken from the house by firefighters. Ratcliff was taken to Culbertson Memorial Hospital in Rushville where he was pronounced dead.

The fire department was dispatched at 12:59 a.m. Sunday to the home at 513 North Maple St.

Firefighters saw heavy smoke coming from the west side of the house and then conducted a search, Mt. Sterling Fire Department Chief Brian Gallaher said.

Coroner Dennis Lane said that an autopsy performed Sunday revealed no outward signs of foul play. The investigation has been turned over to the Illinois State Fire Marshal's office. The cause of the fire isn't known.

"We were initially told that it was a vacant residence, that had fire on the second floor," said Gallaher. "We arrived and saw heavy smoke and there was fire visible from the second floor. A neighbor quickly told us that they believed someone could be inside, so we conducted a search. They had actually told us that they thought if the person was there, he would be in the basement. So we began our search in the basement and worked our way to the second floor where we did find a victim on the second floor."

Gallaher said that there was no gas or electric as those services were shut off.

"There is some pretty serious damage inside so it'll take some time to sift through that and be able to try and hopefully come up with a cause," Gallaher said.