A 79-year-old Thurston County man died early Wednesday morning after a fire from a nearby burn pile spread to his home on the 3200 block of 78th Avenue Southeast, according to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office.
Joann Fishbeck, who identified herself as the victim’s niece, said the man who died in the fire is Jack Thomas, a Korean War veteran who has lived on the property since the 1980s.
“This situation could have been totally avoidable,” Fishbeck said.
Lt. Cliff Ziesemer said a man and a woman started the fire in a burn pile, and it spread to the home on the 3200 block of 78th Avenue Southeast in Thurston County. Thomas was inside the home.
The woman tried to rescue the man from the home, but she was unable to. She suffered minor burns.
When East Olympia Fire District 6 crews arrived at the scene about 2:45 a.m., the home was engulfed.
Deputies learned that the woman, identified as Nicole McPherson, 32, had an outstanding arrest warrant, and she was booked into the Thurston County Jail. The man, Aaron Myers, 39, has multiple outstanding warrants, but he fled the scene.
Thurston County Sheriff’s Office detectives and investigators from the Olympia and Lacey fire departments are investigating, Ziesemer said.
Deputies are trying to locate Myers to interview him about the fire.
Several of Thomas’s family members live in the area — some in homes next door to Thomas’s family, and others in different parts of the county.
Fishbeck said Thomas didn’t have any immediate family members. He had never been married, and had no children. But his nieces, nephews and cousins often stopped by to make sure he had everything he needed.
Fishbeck and another niece live in homes next door to Thomas’s property. Several other family members live in the same neighborhood.
A third niece, Amy Clow, lives with her husband Josh Clow in Rainier — but they were visiting one of Thomas’s neighboring family members at the time of the fire.
“We heard an explosion, then we came out and saw the fire,” Josh Clow said. “Then we saw someone run across the yard and into the woods.”
Josh Clow said witnessed believed that Thomas was still inside the home, but they were unable to enter and help him. Firefighters extinguished the fire, and the family learned that Thomas had been inside.
“We just hope that we can get some answers soon,” Josh Clow said.