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Man found burning in home may have accidentally set himself on fire, SAFD says

Victim identified as 75-year-old Arnold Hilton Gibbons

SAN ANTONIO – UPDATE: The Medical Examiner's Office identified the man killed in the East Side fire as 75-year-old Arnold Hilton Gibbons. 

(Original Story)

A man found burning inside his East Side home on Tuesday morning may have inadvertently set himself on fire, according to San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood.

"The fire appears that it started in the kitchen,” said Hood. “So this, very well, could have been a kitchen fire where the occupant set himself on fire accidentally.”

RELATED: Two days into 2018, SAFD has already responded to 19 fires

SAFD officials later added that it appeared the victim was using the stove to stay warm or possibly attempting to extinguish a toaster fire when his shirt ignited.

Hood cautioned, though, that arson investigators are still looking into the exact cause of the fire.

The fire broke out just before 9 a.m. at a home in the 200 block of Belmont Street.

James Solis, who lives across the street, said he noticed his dogs barking, seemingly at nothing. Then he saw what was causing the commotion.

He said at his neighbor’s home, he saw smoke at first, then something even more unusual.

"I saw it from here and I thought it was just a carpet but when they told me it was him at the door,” Solis said. “I was, like, 'Oh it was him on fire!"

Solis said he could see his neighbor, still inside his home, going up in flames.

As he called 911, another neighbor ran to the home and began yanking on the burglar bars at the front door until they opened. Firefighters arrived at that time and took over the scene.

“We were able to pull the gentleman out. He was deceased when we pulled him out,” Hood said.

Hood declined to release the name of the man right away, but SAFD officials said he was 75 years old and lived alone. No one else was found inside the house.

Arson investigators were called to the scene to make sure there was no foul play involved.

Firefighters, meanwhile, began doing what they could to prevent any other deaths.

"One of the most important things that we're doing right now is we're canvassing the neighborhood with smoke detectors,” Hood said. “Anytime we have a fatal fire, we want to make sure that the neighbors around have smoke detectors."

The fire was one of about a half dozen in the city Tuesday morning.

Hood took time to issue a reminder for residents about fire safety, although not all of them were preventable.

He said people should avoid using alternative methods of heating their homes, such as stoves or ovens, and be extremely careful while using space heaters.


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