KDPS: 2 killed in fire at historic home in Kalamazoo

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo Public Safety officers say two people missing after a fire at a historic house in Kalamazoo were found dead in the burned building.

Authorities removed both bodies from the home on Academy Street east of W. Michigan Avenue Friday afternoon. Investigators say they have not yet positively identified the victims.

Flames and smoke had already spread throughout the home by the time crews were called to the scene around 9 p.m. Thursday. Kalamazoo firefighters said they tried to search and rescue everyone inside, but the conditions were too dangerous to stay inside, forcing them to fight the fire from outside.

Thursday night, Kalamazoo investigators reported that only one person was injured and taken to a local hospital. However, they later determined two people were still missing and believed to be inside.

“We were not able to account for all of the residents inside. We worked throughout the night to try to make contact by phone, locating then. Eventually we went to a very methodical, slow search and here just recently we did discover two bodies,” said Lt. Jason Hendrick with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

Investigators don’t believe anyone else is in the building, but they were still searching the rubble Friday afternoon.

The dining room manager for The Park Club of Kalamazoo, said the burned building, known as the Balch Home, was the original home of The Park Club, which formed in 1904.

He said several years ago, the entire house was picked up from where it stood at the corner of Rose and South streets near Bronson Park and moved a few blocks to its current spot along Academy Street. It was repurposed into nine apartments.

Christen Baxter was among those who lived at the house. She said she found out about the fire from a friend who saw it on Facebook.

Baxter said she raced back home to find the place in flames. She found out that one of her cats escaped; firefighters rescued the other cat three hours later.

“I’m completely heartbroken for the families and the people who passed. I don’t even have words,” Baxter said.

“I cant even imagine what their family must be going through. It makes me feel bad that I feel bad about what I lost ’cause it’s nothing compared to what they lost,” she added.

Investigators say they have no reason to believe the fire was a criminal act, but it could take a while to determine the cause because of the extensive damage it caused.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety at 269.488.8911 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100.

— 24 Hour News 8’s Evan Dean contributed to this report.

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