By Joe Martinez

Pioneer News Network

LAKE COUNTY — An early morning house fire near Baldwin last week claimed the life of two long time area residents.

Emergency response officials were first alerted following a hang-up to 911 dispatch just before 3 a.m. Thursday morning from the residence of Don and Jean Ingle at 310 Washington St. in Webber Township.

Lake County officials believe the disconnected call to 911 came about as the result of power going out at the residence, a standard occurrence when a home loses power, according to Sheriff Bob Hilts.

Baldwin and Yates Township fire departments responded to the blaze.

When emergency responders arrived the house was so fully engulfed in flames that any rescue attempt was not possible.

“They (rescue crews) made an attempt to approach the door, see if they could get in the house, and see if anybody could be rescued. They couldn’t, ” Hilts said

LCSD officials were initally unable to identify either body on scene due to the conditions of the victims.

LCSD Undersheriff Richard Perrin said the male victim has since been identified as Don Ingle by the Kent County Medical Examiner through autopsy. The female victim is being identified through dental records, and they expect that review to be completed within the next day or two.

Hilts said he had contacted the victims’ relatives.

Baldwin Fire Department Chief Kevin Thiel said his department could not confirm what caused the fire, and said that before a full investigation was completed he could only report the fire started from an “undetermined cause.”

The fire is being currently under investigation by Fire Marshal Sgt. John Richards of the Michigan State Police.

LCSD deputies were first on the scene responding to the 911 hang up and saw flames coming from the house’s chimney which led officials to speculate that the fire started in the residence’s wood burning stove.

“We think it was the wood stove,” Hilts said. “We’re not really sure. As far as damage to the house that we could see at that time, there wasn’t anything else. So it had to be in that area.”

The first victim was found upon an initial inspection of the house and the second victim was found in the basement after several hours of removing debris. Hilts believes that the fire caused the main floor and attic to collapse into the basement area

“It was quite some time and quite a large amount of work to get the debris out of the way so they could search for the second victim,” Hilts said.