Oakley fire victim was ‘well-known’ in the small town

Fire chief believes fire was smoldering for a few hours before crews were called
An elderly man died after this house near Oakley in Saginaw County caught fire.
An elderly man died after this house near Oakley in Saginaw County caught fire.(source: WJRT)
Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 6:17 PM EST
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SAGINAW COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - The small town of Oakley has been hit by tragedy this morning.

A well-known member of the community has died in a fire.

While its not clear what started the fire, the fire chief says it may have been smoldering for some time before a 911 call was made.

The first 9-1-1 call came in before six in the morning. There was a second one from a neighbor who lives near the home on Bockee Street.

”Another neighbor called, there is an elderly male that lives at the residence, he is handicapped, there is a walker by the front door and a truck in the drive,” a dispatcher at Saginaw County Central Dispatch can be heard saying on 9-1-1 recordings.

Firefighters and emergency personnel found the man who lives at the home inside.

”You have the ambulance coming to 4th and Bockee, step it up, we have a victim here,” says an emergency responder at the scene.

But 72 year-old Lewis Patterson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Chesaning-Brady Fire Chief Scott Fall says fire crews were challenged getting into the home because he says Patterson was a hoarder. He still says firefighters got to the man within three minutes of their arrival. He believes the fire started a couple of hours before fire crews were even called.

“In talking with some of the neighbors, we find out that they had smelled smoke as early as three o clock in the morning, and it did appear to us it was a long, smoldering fire,” he says.

Fall knew Patterson lived alone and was the only person in the home.

“I had known the gentleman for quite a few years, very nice gentleman, very well known in the community,” Fall says.

Fall says another challenge was finding enough volunteer firefighters to respond. He says its a problem that all small town fire departments have been facing for years.

“We have 26, I had five this morning that were available,” says Fall.

Firefighters from surrounding agencies came to help.

The Michigan State Police Fire Marshal is now trying to determine what caused the fire.

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