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Man dies in duplex fire in Sterling

Neighbors: Homeless person was living in house

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 7:49 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 3:44 p.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Sterling Fire stands by Tuesday morning as State Fire Marshal Arson Investigator Kenny Arnold and K-9 Dollar come out of a burned-out home on West Seventh Street. The body of a yet-to-be-identified man was found on the second floor of the abandoned three-story duplex.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
State Fire Marshal Arson Investigator Kenny Arnold and K-9 Dollar come out of a house on West Seventh Street in Sterling after investigating for accelerants. One person was found dead in the house fire.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Firefighters are seen on the porch of the duplex. The state fire marshal’s office is investigating the fire’s cause.

STERLING – The body of a man was found early Tuesday morning after a fire in an abandoned duplex in Sterling.

Firefighters responded to the fire shortly after 3:30 a.m. at 204 W. Seventh St., just blocks away from the main fire station.

The man has not been identified.

Deputy Fire Chief Mike Dettman said the man in the building was believed to be homeless. No utilities were connected to the house.

It took about 40 minutes to control the fire, Dettman said.

"It was stubborn," he said.

The state fire marshal's office is investigating the fire's cause.

Maci Garcia, 21, who lives near the building, said the duplex had been abandoned for about a year. She said her father had mentioned that a homeless man had been living there.

"My cousins used to live on that side of the house," she said, referring to the portion where most of the fire damage appeared to have occurred.

The man's body was found on the second floor of the three-story white house, Sterling police Lt. Doug Fargher said.

Authorities expected to identify the man soon, Fargher said.

"We have our suspicions," he said.

The duplex is believed to be in foreclosure or some other type of litigation, Fargher said.

Officials, he said, will look at all possibilities on the fire's cause, including whether the man started a fire to keep warm.

This was the fifth structure fire to which local firefighters have responded in the past week, Deputy Chief Dettman said.

Edward Bailey, a 37-year-old hairstylist, said he has lived in the house across the street for about a year.

Last winter, Bailey said, the man had a generator running in the apartment building, but that hadn't been the case this year. He said he didn't know how the man kept warm.

The man, Bailey said, fixed his car a couple of times, and they had had beers on the abandoned duplex's porch.

"I think he was unemployed," Bailey said. "He was always riding a bike."

He said he believed the man had been watching the house for someone.

"This was probably an accident," he said.

Bailey said he didn't know the man's name.

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