RACINE, Wis. — Police identified the 74-year-old man who was killed in a house fire in Racine over the weekend as Johnnie Edison.
Racine Police Department’s public information officer said Edison’s relatives in Illinois were notified of his death.
Cell phone video captured the flames and smoke coming from a home on Woodland Avenue near Park High School early Sunday morning. Fire officials were dispatched shortly after 4 am with reports of people still in the home. Despite dealing with more than eight inches of snow, the fire department was able to make it on scene in less than four minutes.
“My fiancée woke me, shook me, and said, ‘Oh my God, there’s flames coming out of the roof of the house next door,'” neighbor Tom Stemple recalled. “I was scared that the other houses around it were gonna go up.”
Firefighters said they found Edison unresponsive on the first floor near the back of the home. He had been staying at the house temporarily with a married couple. Edison was taken to a local hospital but died despite life-saving efforts.
Authorities said another man who lives in the home ran across the street to have a neighbor call 9-1-1, then went back to get his wife who is wheelchair-bound.
The couple escaped and had to be hospitalized for their injuries. The wife was transferred to the Ascension Columbia-St. Mary’s Regional Burn Center in Milwaukee for smoke inhalation.
Firefighters stressed that a working smoke alarm was key to saving their lives and that people should check the device regularly.
“With his age and health and her age and health both being elderly, I don’t know if I’d been able to get out of the house unless there was something like that with the early warning,” Stemple said.
Stamp did not know Edison but said the husband and wife are great neighbors.
“You know where we live. You guys are good people. Anything we can do to help, anything you need, just ask, that’s all I gotta do. We’ll do everything we can make it happen for you,” Stemple said.
Racine fire officials say the fire started in the basement and they do not suspect foul play.
The estimated damage between the structure and contents of the house is more than $100,000.
Fire officials are working to determine if smoking or space heaters sparked the fire.
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