Updated: Wednesday, 13 Jan 2010, 9:29 AM EST
Published : Sunday, 10 Jan 2010, 6:15 AM EST
PALO, Mich (WOOD) - Two men died in a fire at a home for veterans in northern Ionia County early Sunday morning.
There were 11 people living at Honor House, an independently run home for low-income veterans in the 8400 block of Judevine Road. But the two men who died -- 51-year-old Christian Aversano of Clinton Township and 55-year-old Raymond Andrews of Waterford -- were not veterans; they were homeless and permitted to stay at the house. Preliminary autopsy findings indicate both men died of smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation.
Tricia Parsons began renting the home to veterans about one and a half years ago. She didn't mind when others occupied the residence, either.
"(The victims) are people that were homeless and needed to be in a home, so we took them in even though it was a veterans home," Parsons said. "They were both very special people. We miss them."
All the residents of Honor House are able-bodied and can get around on their own, Parsons said. One of the men who died may have had a medical condition, she added.
Both the victims were found dead inside the home, according to a news release.
About 50 firefighters responded to the northern Ionia County fire, which started at around 2 a.m. and burned for more than three hours.
"When I got here, (I) knew they weren't out of the house," Parsons said. "I just, I knew. Because there was just so many flames and the fire just wasn't stopping."
Preliminary indications are that a candle started the blaze. Witnesses told officials someone living in the home lit a candle that was not in a holder.
Though the investigation continues, authorities believe the fire was accidental.
But it was Cory Morris of the Ronald Township area and one of the victims, Parsons said, who sacrificed his own life to help out some of the other nine residents, she said.
"He saved some lives here last night and he's a great, great person," Parsons added.