Police ID man killed in Vassar Township house fire

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VASSAR TOWNSHIP (WJRT) - (12/02/15) - A Tuscola County man is dead after a fire destroyed his home.

Vassar and Mayville fire departments came to the home in the 5700 block of Sheridan Road, in Vassar Township, just after 2 a.m. Tuesday.

When crews arrived, they didn't have much fire to fight, but they made a grisly discovery.

"Find the structure in the condition that it is in right now, very minimal amount of flames, heavy smoke," said Lenny Jaskulka, MSP fire investigator.

A passerby called 911 to report a fire, and neighbors eventually noticed the fire, but only after they heard noises.

"According to witness statements, the neighbors called in the fire after they heard two large pops," Jaskulka said. "It's consistent with the tires of the truck being expanded by the heat and causing the large bang."

A charred pick-up truck sits in front of what used to be a house. While firefighters didn't have much fire to fight, they searched the home and found a body in the southwest bedroom.

Police believe the man is 54-year-old Jason Whittaker. They are still waiting on DNA results to come back in for a positive identification.

Whittaker had just recently moved in to the house.

It's not clear if there was electricity in the home and it appears one of the heating sources in the house was a wood-burning stove.

Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire.

"This structure, given the condition it is, and the fire damage is extensive, makes it just a little more difficult, but not impossible, to determine origin and cause," Jaskulka said.

Jaskulka says the fire most likely started a few hours before the passerby noticed. He says it's not surprising that neighbors wouldn't realize there was a fire so close by.

"Especially when the homes are recessed off the main roads, it makes it difficult for neighbors to see an orange glow or a smoke plume, to notify the fire department," he said.

Investigators have not released the name of the man at this time and results of an autopsy are not known at this time.

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