Firefighters found the body of an unidentified 57-year-old man inside his apartment Saturday morning after they extinguished a fire in the victim’s home.
The fire occurred early Saturday at Lake Forest Apartments, off Village Center Drive, just north of the Safeway shopping center. El Dorado Hills Fire Chief Dave Roberts was on call, and reported that the fire appears at first blush to be a classic case of falling asleep with a lit cigarette, but the chief also wondered why the victim didn’t respond to the smoke alarms that were blaring when firefighters arrived.
An autopsy to determine how the victim died was scheduled for Monday afternoon.
According to Roberts, a friend called 911 when he saw the victim’s windows blackened and noticed that the apartment door was hot. Engine 84 arrived less than four minutes later.
Despite a lack of smoke outside the apartment, Capt. Chris Storz and his crew quickly diagnosed a self-contained apartment fire. “They popped the door open and immediately knocked the fire down, performed their search and found the body,” said Roberts.
Items they found inside surprised them. “He wasn’t really a horder, but he had many black plastic bags full of trash all over the apartment, along with boxes and boxes of cigarette cartons and cigarette butts all over the floor,” said Roberts. “It was a recipe for disaster.”
Firefighters located the victim on floor, near his chair, which was severely burned. Roberts said he wonders if the victim simply fell asleep while smoking, or if he suffered some other impairment that prevented him from escaping when the smoke detectors went off. “It appeared that he tried to move, but didn’t get very far.”
Roberts said he can’t remember the last fire related fatality that wasn’t a suicide.
Lake Forest Apartments were built roughly 13 years ago, said Roberts, before sprinkler systems were required, so the fire burned hot inside the apartment, but fortunately remained contained.
Roberts praised the friend who called 911 and Engine Company 84 for its quick response, “especially considering all the fire load in that apartment,” he said. “There are seven other apartments in that building. This could have been much worse.”
An investigation is pending.
Three hours earlier, Engine 84 and Truck 85 doused a car that seemingly self emulated in its Darwin Court driveway, fortunately far enough from the house that nothing besides the car burned.
Roberts conjectured that the fire was electrical, as the battery was just a week old and the alternator was completely melted.