The state fire marshal's office is investigating a house fire that claimed the life of an elderly man from west Jefferson County.
Thomas Earl Coe, 72, died before firefighters could get into his home in the 100 block of Front Street in Mulga. Three firefighting agencies, Minor Heights, Mulga and Sylvan Springs fire departments, responded to the fire called in 2:41 a.m. Sunday morning.
Coe's neighbor and friend of 21 years, Rhonda Parkin, reported the fire to 911. She and her husband tried to save Coe, but it was too late.
"I opened the front door, and I even got down and I just couldn't get to him...There was so much smoke, you could not see anything," Parkin said.
When firefighters arrived, they tried to enter the house through the front door but discovered it was barricaded from inside. Once they got inside, firefighters found Coe's body near the front door. No one else was in the house.
"We knew that's where he stayed, in the front room and there was just no way we could get to him, the house was so engulfed," Parkin said.
Another of Coe's neighbors, W.R. England, described the 72-year-old man as a kind and gentle person.
"Every morning you could see him going out to check the mailbox right out there at the end of the street," England said.
Neighbor Wanda Randazza recalled meeting Coe for the first time.
"He was the first that welcomed us to the neighborhood and he shook my hand. It's just sad," she said.
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