By JIM MISUNAS
HOISINGTON — Evidence that Hoisington firefighters believed to be “suspicious,” convinced Hoisington Police Chief Kenton Doze to call the State Fire Marshal’s office and Kansas Bureau of Investigation for assistance uncovering evidence in a fatal fire.
Leroy George Schartz, Jr., 62, died in the fire.
“Based on what was observed, we called the KBI and the State Fire Marshal’s service to help assist us looking into this fire. It’s a suspicious fire we’re looking into,” said Doze.
Hoisington firefighters and officers responded to a structure fire at a residence at 522 East 5th St. at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The residence appears in rundown condition obscured by overgrown trees and damaged floor boards on the porch.
“When the firefighters arrived, the house was engulfed in flames. It was indicated to my officer that there might still be a subject inside the house. As the firefighters made their way into the house and started fighting the fire, they did locate a white male in one of the bedrooms. The man was deceased.”
Doze said a Kansas Fire Marshal investigator and a KBI agent investigated the scene Wednesday evening until 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
“They have not made any clear indications of what ignited the fire,” Doze said.
Doze said his officers have spent time speaking with friends and acquaintances. Doze said Schartz was apparently the lone resident.
“In an ongoing investigation, you follow your leads. That’s what we’re doing right now,” Doze said. “We’ll piece it together and see what we have. It could be accidental. But right now, it’s suspicious.”
The State Fire Marshal’s office released Schartz’s name after a positive identification was made and an autopsy was performed.
“We’re waiting on an autopsy investigation,” Doze said. “Once the autopsy investigation is done and the body is properly identified, we contact the next of kin and we’ll release the man’s name.”
The last fire fatality in town occurred Aug. 14, 2006, according to Hoisington Fire Chief Jim Sekavec.