2 dead in house fire; investigation under way

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Steve Bodinet

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 9:24 AM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 18 at 6:54 PM

Map: Near 43rd Ave & Union Hills

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PHOENIX -- Investigators are trying to determine if the two people whose bodies were found in a burning home Tuesday morning were already dead when firefighters arrived on the scene.

Fire crews were called out to the neighborhood southeast of 43rd Avenue and Union Hills Drive at about 8:30 a.m.

Phoenix Fire Capt. Larry Nuñez confirmed the fatalities, but said investigators did not have any information about the victims. All they know at this point is that the victims are adults, possibly a man and a woman.

Neighbors told 3TV's Stella Inger a couple in their 60s had lived in the home for several years, but it is too early for there to be any official confirmation as to the victims' identities.

At this point, it's not known what sparked the fire, but Nuñez said there were heavy flames when crews arrived on the scene.

Aerial video from the Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper showed smoke pouring from the roof and at least three firefighters could be seen cutting vent holes.

In addition to blinding smoke and intense flames, Nuñez said fire crews also encountered "a lot of contents" in the home, which made finding the victims and fighting the flames difficult. Crews employed thermal-imaging cameras in their search operation.

While Nuñez mentioned "a lot of contents," it's not clear if this was a hoarding situation.

Investigators have not yet determined if the victims were already dead when crews arrived on the scene, although one of the firefighters who went into the home said it was a possibility.

"Once the fire was under control, [firefighters] backed out," Nuñez explained. "We'll leave the rest of the investigation to our fire investigators and Phoenix police."

One of the first steps, according to Nuñez, will be to determine the origin and cause of the fire. He said investigators generally consider fatal fires suspicious until they know otherwise.

"They're always investigated that way, just to be on the safe side and make sure all their ducks are in a row," Nuñez explained.

About an hour after the fire was first reported, Nuñez said that homicide detectives were en route to the scene. Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump was on his way to the home, as well.

Details will be updated as they develop and information comes into the newsroom.

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