SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Suffolk Fire and Rescue found a man dead while battling a two-alarm house fire in the 7600 block of South Quay Road early Friday morning.
Suffolk officials say they are investigating it as an “undetermined death,” but they are not sure if it is related to the fire. No foul play is expected.
The victim has been identified as 91-year-old Ralph Saunders, according to Suffolk officials.
Dispatchers say the call came in just before 6 a.m. Suffolk Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief Chuck Knight says they found heavy smoke and fire coming from the back of the house when they arrived on the scene. The fire was marked under control just after 7 a.m.
The victim’s brother, J.T. Saunders, told 10 On Your Side Ralph was a helpful, hard-working man, “He has been a hard worker all his life. He had three or four big jobs that he worked over the years and he has tried to help people.”
Neighbor Rexford Cotten lives right across the highway (U.S. 58) from Saunders. He says Saunders was a pillar of that community.
“A man that had deep roots in this community, lived in this community for many years. He had an in-depth knowledge of the families and history of the community.”
The Suffolk Fire Marshal said the fire was accidental. Officials say the resident was using a stove to heat the home and combustible material was too close to the heat source.
Stay on WAVY.com for updates on this developing story.