TOWN OF MANHEIM — Thomas Sarpen was known for helping foster rescued dogs and cats, and that love for his furry friends might explain why he died in a house fire in Herkimer County earlier this month, state police said.
On Jan. 1, 56-year-old Sarpen was found dead inside his home at 450 Hoertz Rd. in the town of Manheim, just a short distance from Kyser Lake, said state police Investigator Ben Scalise.
Sarpen’s body was located near what police believe was a rear doorway to the residence, Scalise said, and an autopsy later determined he had died from smoke inhalation.
“We assumed that he was trying to exit the residence, but the people we talked to told us that he’s the type of guy that would try to get the animals out first,” Scalise said. “He’s just a really caring guy that way.”
The cause and origin of the fire have not been officially reported yet, but it is believed to have been sparked by a wood-burning stove, Scalise said.
Most of the structure was burned to the ground when authorities arrived, Scalise said, and a number of unleashed dogs and cats were found roaming the lakeside property.
A few of the animals did die in the fire, however, Scalise said.
There’s nothing to suggest that the fire is suspicious in nature, Scalise said.