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Police: Man was thawing pipes before fatal fire

(Photo: WOLF)

DALTON, Pa. (WOLF) -- Police say an elderly man is dead after a fire at his Dalton, Pa. home on Friday afternoon.

We have more on the problem the homeowners were having because of the cold weather that may have led to the fire.

A fire marshal says the elderly couple had no running water in their home on Friday morning on Equestrian Drive, after the pipes froze.

So, police say the husband, identified by family as Richard Stark, 91, was trying to thaw the pipes throughout the day.

Then, they saw a fire in the utility room, and the wife, Mary, was able to get out, police said.

UPDATE SATURDAY: An autopsy showed Stark died from the heat effects of the fire, and he also had a history of heart disease that contributed to his death, coroner Tim Rowland said.

"They found my grandmother walking up out of her house at that time, and that's when another neighbor came and got her," says grandson Shane Justis.

The alarm went out around 2:30 p.m. Fire marshal Jason Mills says the wife tried to go back in to get her husband, but the smoke was too heavy.

It turned out he was able to get out on another side of the home, but was found dead outside after police arrived, Mills said.

"The roof collapsed in moments after we got here," says Dalton Fire Chief Don Stacknick. "it was just pillering black smoke. You could see it down in the center of town, so we knew we had a fully involved one."

"He was a very, very kind soul. He loved everybody and everybody loved him," says Justis.

Justis says stark was a World War II Army veteran who liked to work around his property, and maintain and do things on his own.

"He liked to do everything by himself. I've offered my help to him many times and my dad too," says Justis.

Justis says during the war, Stark was about to be deployed into the Pacific theater, when he was injured in a training accident.

"It actually saved his life because his whole platoon was never, never seen again. It's a little bit dark, but he was saved, and thanks to that, we were able to be with him for the long life that he had," says Justis.

"I know the Starks for a long time, a long time. That was one of the houses here before the development was put in for years," says Stacknick.

Stacknick says they had low pressure on one hydrant and had to fight the cold, but got a lot of lines laid into the fire.

"We had plenty of water. It was just getting the manpower to get the hose lines laid because of the shortage of manpower," says Stacknick.

"He's lived a very long, happy life, and we had fun with him on the holidays, and my some of my family went out to eat with him," says Justis.

State police are investigating the fire. Mary Stark was taken to Geisinger CMC for evaluation. An autopsy on Richard Stark is set for Saturday.



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