Man charged, victim remembered after fatal fire in Butler County

Man in custody, charged with arson in connection to fatal fire

MADISON TOWNSHIP, Ohio (FOX19) - A man has been charged with arson in connection with a fatal fire Sunday night detectives said may have been sparked by a cigar laid on a roll of toilet paper.

The fire took place in a residential trailer in Madison Township. Deputies responded to the 6500 block of Germantown Road about 8 p.m. Sunday, a sheriff’s report shows. When they arrived, they said they found the trailer fully engulfed in flames.

Steve Strain, 59, was found dead on the floor, the sheriff’s report states. He suffered severe burns and died from smoke inhalation, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office.

Deputies made contact with a man identified in the report as the “suspect,” James Johnson, 56, who told them he was smoking a cigar and laid it down on a roll of toilet paper, causing a fire that spread to a box of ammunition, a welder and a gas tank, which exploded.

Johnson was initially taken to the Middletown Police Department to be interviewed by detectives. He has since been charged with arson.

His bond was set at $105,000 during a hearing on Friday.

Several neighbors tell FOX19 NOW Strain was the nicest person they have ever met, describing him as someone who would look out for others in the neighborhood.

"He was really friendly, welcoming. It felt good moving in here,' Kurtis Oldfield said. “Every time I’d come home from work, he’d wave to me. He’d be sitting out there with his dog, and I’d occasionally go talk to him. He was just an overall really nice guy.”

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