Man saves woman, dies in house fire

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

MESA, Ariz. – A man in his 80s was killed after helping a woman escape an early morning fire at a Mesa home Thursday.

The victim has been identified as Kirby Allan, a well-known musician who started off as a crooner in the Frank Sinatra era.

Fire crews were called to Allan's house in the neighborhood of Gilbert and Brown roads at about 2:30 a.m.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, the house was already engulfed in flames that were shooting 20 feet into the air. Neighbors told them there might be somebody in the backyard.

Crews immediately went defensive. The flames were so intense that firefighters were unable to get into the house through the front door. They had to go in through the back. They found Allan's body in the back entryway. It's possible that there might have been some furniture blocking that door.

While they were reluctant to call the residents hoarders, firefighters said there were quite a few possessions inside the ranch-style house that made it extremely difficult for them to get in, move around and battle the flames.

The fire was putting out incredible amounts of smoke. Firefighters said it made it extremely difficult for them to see. Smoke was still visibly hovering over the home hours after the fire was out.

According to Capt. Forrest Smith of the Mesa Fire Department, Allan, 83, might have become disoriented in all the smoke.

"Visibility was horrible," Smith explained.

The woman who escaped told crews that Allan had awakened her, warned her about the fire and started to help her out of the house. Once she was safely outside, however, she said she turned around did not see him.

That woman, whose name has not been released, was taken to the hospital as a precaution for other health issues.

Investigators are trying to determine how the fire started and why it spread through the house so quickly.

According to public records, Allan purchased the 3,300-square-foot home in 1991.

Respected in the music industry, Allan was not only a singer and composer. His career led him to team up with Lean "Chaino" Johnson in 1958, after spending time on the Gold Coast of Africa. With Allan as producer, the pair released seven albums featuring African-based percussion that became extremely popular in the exotica genre. Allan described it as "Americanized African" music.

Allan, a veteran of World War II, was civic-minded. He ran for mayor of Mesa eight times between 1982 and 2004. He also ran for a seat on the Mesa City Council in 1998. He lost all of those elections.