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Published: Friday, 6/22/2007

Disabled Monroe man, 57, dies in fire

MONROE - A 57-year-old disabled man was pronounced dead yesterday at his home after firefighters found his body in a doorway where he was apparently trying to escape the flames, authorities said.

Melvin Henson's body was found in his kitchen, blocking the unlocked back door to his home at 920 Custer St., where he lived alone, Monroe City Fire Marshal Jim Kansier said.

Monroe fire and police departments, called at 12:55 a.m. by someone who saw smoke in the area, found the home fully engulfed and Mr. Henson apparently overcome by smoke inhalation, according to a police news release.

His one-story home was ruled a total loss; the roof collapsed after firefighters arrived, the fire marshal said.

About 30 firefighters from Monroe and Monroe Township fought the blaze.

The fire was believed to have started in the attic, the fire marshal said. The cause was listed as undetermined last night, but the fire marshal said it might have been electrical.

Mr. Henson, a Chrysler retiree and Vietnam veteran, suffered from severe diabetes, congestive heart failure, and renal failure.

He used medical equipment to supply him with oxygen, his sister-in-law Gloria Henson said.

"He only took a few steps at a time," she said of his mobility.

His family, some of whom were not notified until more than 12 hours after the fire, were in "total shock" last night, Mrs. Henson said.

"To have him go this way was just awful," she said.

Mr. Henson kept two pet parrots, one of which was found dead, the fire marshal said. The other bird was not found immediately.

His first major health problems were diagnosed about 10 years ago, just months after he retired from DaimlerChrysler AG's Trenton, Mich., engine plant.

His wife, June, died about five years ago.

He had lived in Monroe for most of his married life, after growing up in the Southgate, Mich., area, his sister-in-law said.

Funeral arrangements, which are being handled by the Bennett Funeral Home in Monroe, were incomplete.

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