Reporting Holly Wagner
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The 55-year-old man killed in a fire inside a St. Paul garage Thursday morning was a familiar face to many in his neighborhood.
“It’s hard. We’ll miss him in the neighborhood sitting outside of his garage,” said Alisa Hollibush, one of the man’s neighbors.
Hollibush heard the commotion Thursday morning and saw the flames out of her window. She ran over and told firefighters her neighbor was likely inside.
Firefighters searched through the debris and found the man’s body. Investigators later found out he’d been living in the garage for seven years.
His mother wouldn’t let him live in the house, so he stayed in the garage. She recently passed away and the home was going up for sale.
His friends say he had found an apartment and was days away from moving out. We ran into several of his friends and neighbors, who stopped by to look at the pile of debris and ashes that he once called home.
“It’s hard to watch, hard to see that this took place here, he was a very well-liked man,” said Helio Mercado, a friend.
“We were really good friends. We’d hang out, knew each other a long time. Everybody loved him. My kids are disappointed he’s gone. Everybody’s just so sad,” said Tracey Kortkamp.
Investigators spent several hours looking through the debris to try and pinpoint where and how the fire started. St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard told WCCO-TV there were two space heaters and an electric blanket in the area where it looks like the fire started.
One of the man’s friends said one of the space heaters burned a hole in his sleeping bag recently. She warned him it could start a fire.
The man’s identity has not yet been released.
The fire also took out some power lines in the alley, cutting power to nearby residents. Xcel Energy crews are on scene working to restore power. The garage has been deemed a total loss.