MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (WOOD) — A house fire in Muskegon Heights claimed the life of a 58-year-old man Tuesday.
The man, whose identity hasn’t been released, was staying with a friend on the second floor of the home on the corner of 8th Street and W. Keating Avenue.
Tylee Hatcher, Zaron Bell and the home’s owner Lane Luytjes were working on a vehicle parked in front of the home when they smelled smoke around noon.
“I’m like, who’s having a bonfire? I look again and he’s like no, the house is on fire,” Hatcher recalled.
He and Luytjes headed into the house while Bell dialed 911.
“As I go upstairs, there was a sheet up there. As soon as I pulled the sheet down, that black smoke just come up and hit you,” Hatcher said. “(Luytjes was) all the way upstairs. So I got half way upstairs, he tried to run towards the door and he tried to push me down because the flames got serious. And I just ran back out of the house.”
Firefighters from Muskegon and Muskegon Heights were called to the home. Muskegon arrived first. By the time they reached the victim, it was too late.
“The initial crew found heavy smoke coming from the second floor of the home,” Muskegon Heights Fire Chief Christopher Dean said. “Even if they were five minutes sooner to the scene, four or five minutes earlier, there’s nothing that could have been done to for this victim.”
Dean said there didn’t appear to be any working smoke detectors, which would have provided an early warning. Investigators are looking at smoking in bed as a possible cause.
“There’s been some statement made that the individual was a heavy smoker. Smoking does cause fire, unsafe smoking habits. But right now, we’re not sure on that,” Dean said.
A sign labeling the home condemned appears on the door of the home. The owner says he’s been fighting with the city over the condemnation. It’s unclear what role, if any, the state of the building played in the fire.
“Until I now all the factors, I don’t want to point to any direction as to why the structure was condemned,” Dean said.
The chief says investigators were waiting to make sure all family members were notified and for a positive identification from the medical examiner before releasing the victim’s name.