Mid-Michigan veteran dies in Richfield Township house fire

RICHFIELD TOWNSHIP (WJRT)- (12/07/17) - A disabled veteran died Thursday afternoon after his house caught fire and he was unable to escape.

The victim's wife and son received burns while trying to help him out of the house. They were admitted to Hurley Medical Center's Burn Unit, but their conditions were not known late Thursday.

The 69-year-old male who died used a walker to get around. Relatives at the scene said he collapsed onto a couch near a rear doorway and couldn't get back up.

"He's a disabled vet, he can't walk. He has to use a walker and then he falls a lot," said Lisa Birgos, the victim's sister-in-law. "I guess he fell and they tried frantically to get him out."

Neighbor Kathleen Tompkins heard a bunch of sirens then heard the address on her scanner.

"When someone said it was the brown house, behind which used to be this church house, I knew right then that it was their house," she said.

The smoke could be seen from several miles away.

"Very sad, very sad, because this family has been through a lot," Tompkins said.

Firefighters were called to the home on Mt. Morris Road near Irish Road in Richfield Township around 1:10 p.m. When they arrived, the home was nearly fully involved.

Firefighters entered the structure to attempt an aggressive interior attack on the fire and knocked down most of the flames. They were forced back out when flames flared up again.

Fire crews spent hours fully extinguishing the fire, which burned in some concealed spaces created when the house was renovated and added onto over the years.

A fire marshal was on the scene Thursday evening to begin investigating the cause and origin of the blaze. Nothing had been determined by late Thursday night, however.

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