DAUPHIN ISLAND – The Aug. 29 fires that destroyed a Dauphin Island business and several residential structures have been ruled accidental, according to statement from Alabama Fire Marshal Ed Paulk’s office, contradicting weeks of speculation from neighbors and residents.

The ruling comes following a joint investigation conducted by The Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms , and Explosives (ATF), Dauphin Island and Mobile County officials.

According to Paulk, the restaurant fire in the early morning hours “was traced back to a smoker at the restaurant.”

While firefighters were busy with the business fire, a residential fire about three miles away was also called in. Before being extinguished, the second inferno destroyed four residential structures. Again, evidence gathered in the subsequent investigation determined the fire to have been accidental.

“The residential fire began under a home where a boat was being repaired and spread to three more houses before the flames could be extinguished,” the Fire Marshal said.

43-year-old John Robert Sealy died during the house fire, and it has been determined his death was caused by a heart attack he suffered while attempting to salvage belongings from his burning home.

Neighbors suggested that in the weeks before the fires, the town’s building inspector, Corey Moore, had issued several violations to the Sealy residence for its continued state of disrepair. The restaurant that caught fire minutes before the Sealy house fire was reported, Dauphin Island BBQ, was co-owned by Moore.

There will be more on this story as it develops.