MANKATO — Smoking caused a house fire after which the occupant was found dead earlier this month in Mankato, a fire investigator has determined.
James Gacke, 72, was found dead after a small fire in his house at 1403 Carney Ave. on Feb. 5. An investigator with the Minnesota Fire Marshal’s Office examined the fire scene and ruled the cause as smoking.
The fire appeared to have started at the center of a couch in the living room, according to the investigation report. An ashtray was found on a lesser-burned couch cushion. No other potential fire ignition sources were found.
Gacke’s burned body was found on the floor next to the couch after the fire was extinguished. His exact cause of death is still not known. Autopsy results are still pending, Mankato Department of Public Safety Associate Director Jeff Bengtson said.
Harry Stevenson, of North Mankato, told The Free Press at the scene of the fire that Gacke lived alone in the house. Stevenson was delivering a walker to his friend. When he opened a door to the house, Stevenson was overcome with smoke and could see flames in the living room, he said.
He called for his friend but did not hear a response. Stevenson said the smoke was too thick for him to go inside, so he called 911.