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Man dies in Payson house fire; cause of blaze unknown

PAYSON — A man died in a house fire here Monday afternoon, and police have joined the investigation into the blaze.

James McKinley, 65, was killed in the fire, according to his fiancee, Shauna Riley.

The fire was reported about 3 p.m. at 600 Peteetneet Blvd.

Payson's police and fire departments are investigating the fire together and treating the home as a crime scene. Police obtained a search warrant to enter the home Monday evening, and officers and firefighters entered the home about 7:30 p.m.

"We’ll treat it as a crime scene until it shows us otherwise," Payson Police Lt. Bill Wright said.

Three other people who live at the home were not there at the time of the fire, Wright said.

The living area of the home's main floor was most heavily damaged in the blaze, said Payson Fire Chief Scott Spencer. He estimated damage to the home at $100,000.

Riley was distraught as she described her relationship with her fiance Monday.

"If it wasn't for him … I don't know where I'd be at … because he took care of me," Riley said.

The two lived together and had been in Utah for only about a year. McKinley was a veteran of the Vietnam War and had experienced health problems since serving there, Riley said.

"I'm just sad … because I didn't think it'd be this soon," Riley said.

Mandy Forsey was passing by the home when she saw black smoke coming out of it, she said. She pulled over and began knocking on windows and doors, trying to get the attention of whoever might be inside.

Two men joined in to help her, and they soon saw some oxygen tanks on the outside of the home, Forsey said.

"We started throwing the oxygen tanks away from the house," Forsey said. "There was about 12 of them … and we heard one explode inside."

It wasn't possible for Forsey and the two men to get inside because of the fire, she said.

"We couldn't even do anything," Forsey said.

The fire was difficult contain because of multiple oxygen tanks in the home, the fire chief said. The tanks may have helped the fire spread as quickly as it did, Spencer said, though what initially ignited the blaze wasn't immediately known.

No firefighters were injured.

The American Red Cross was called to the scene to assist three adults who were displaced by the fire.

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhartnews