A man is dead after fire destroyed his home on Manners Avenue in Willimantic on Monday morning and officials said they only found his body after the fire was out because a roof collapse prevented them from going inside right away.
Firefighters responded to 144 Manners Avenue in Willimantic at 5:15 a.m., expecting a porch fire, but what they encountered was much worse. Nearly 40-foot-tall flames shot from the three-bedroom ranch-style house. Within around five minutes of firefighters arriving, the roof collapsed.
"When the call came in, it came in as a porch fire in the back of the house. When they got to the scene, it was a fully involved structure (fire) and they started their attack, but within five minutes of them being there, that's when the roof caved in," Fire marshal Michael Licata said.
So, crews stayed out of the burning building.
"If they get to the scene and they have a collapse like that, it's up to the captain," Licata said. "It's his decision to make whether it's safe for his men to go in or not to go in."
If the roof collapses, the walls can go to and firefighters could have been killed, officials said.
For more than an hour, crews battled the fire from outside and kept it from spreading to nearby homes.
On Monday, officials said one resident was unaccounted for and they found the man's body after the flames were out.
On Tuesday, a yellow rose had been placed at a truck parked outside the home.
"I mean that's kind of - I don't know, it's just a terrible thing to happen," Danielle Robillard, of Willimantic, said. "Nobody could have known either way though."
The state medical examiner will conduct and autopsy to indicate whether he died in the fire or of something else before it. Authorities will need to notify the man's family before they publicly identify him.
The Windham fire marshal and state fire marshal’s office are investigating the death and the cause of fire. They're waiting for more test results to come in.