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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

Onsted-area man is killed as blaze destroys his home

ONSTED, Mich. - A 49-year-old man who lived alone just south of Onsted was killed yesterday morning after a fire quickly engulfed his small one-story home.

Dennis Noel Clark was found dead on his living room floor, near the couch where fire officials said he typically slept at night.

The fire at the home just north of Shepherd Road and Town Line Highway was reported about 4:30 a.m. after Richard Anthony Machan, 62, saw flames shooting from the house.

Mr. Machan has been living on Mr. Clark's property in a trailer about 75 feet from Mr. Clark's house. Because Mr. Machan didn't have a phone inside the trailer, he drove to a neighbor's house, woke them up, and they called 911.

Fire crews from Adrian and Cambridge townships responded to the scene, and the Cambridge department took over the investigation.

Cambridge Fire Chief Scott Damon said fire crews were able to bring the blaze under control in about 10 to 15 minutes, largely due to the home's size.

The house, which consisted of a living room, bathroom, kitchen, and one bedroom, was a total loss, said Sgt. Ken Hersha of the Michigan State Police Fire Investigation Unit.

Based on where Mr. Clark's body was found, Sergeant Hersha said there is a good chance that Mr. Clark woke up and attempted to leave the home. He said it will take several days to determine the cause of the fire.

Mr. Clark had been using a wall-mounted heater, which was fueled by propane, to heat his home. But Sergeant Hersha said neither the heat source, nor the fact that Mr. Clark was a smoker, are the main focuses of investigation at this point.

He said authorities instead are focusing their probe on an assortment of extension cords that were found in the south end of the living room.

Those cords were used to supply power to several pieces of equipment in the house, including a computer.

Lt. Cletus Smith of the Lenawee County sheriff's office said the county medical examiner was called to the scene and will perform an autopsy.

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