Fire in Lackawanna County Claims Life of 91-Year-Old Man

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DALTON -- A house fire in Lackawanna County has claimed the life of a 91-year-old man.

Smoke billowed from a house on Equestrian Drive in Dalton as fire crews worked to battle the blaze.

The fire broke out around 2 p.m. and claimed the life of a 91-year-old man who lived there with his wife. The couple's grandson, Shane Justis, said their names are Richard and Mary Stark.

Justis came out when he heard their house was on fire.

“Well, I was actually here first, and I went down, and it was in flames,” said Justis.

A state police fire marshal says Richard Stark had been trying to thaw frozen pipes since that morning.

That's when Richard and his wife noticed flames coming from the utility room and they both left the house.

Richard was later found dead outside the house by Dalton police.

According to the coroner, Richard Stark died from a combination of burns and a history of heart disease.

Neighbor Bob Smith saw the fire from his yard but didn't know Richard had died.

“And that's all I really saw was what was going on,” said Smith. “I saw the ambulance was there, but I didn't really know that something had happened to him.”

Denise Smulk lives next door and says they've been great neighbors for more than a decade.

“They were very friendly people, quiet but always ready to help if you needed any help,” said Smulk. “When we first bought the house 13 years ago, they were the first to come over and brought a basket of food and stuff. But very nice people.”

Investigators say Mary Stark was not injured but was taken to Geisinger-CMC as a precaution.

Justis says the family is focusing on taking care of her.

“Well, you know, she can stay at our house, she can stay at my uncle's house. You know she has a lot of houses she can stay at,” said Justis. “You know, clothes are probably going to be an issue, but I'm sure I can get some for her.”

An autopsy is set for Saturday morning at nine to determine Richard Stark's cause of death.

The fire marshal says the cause of the fire is still under investigation but does not appear suspicious