CHARLEROI, Pa. (KDKA) – Authorities are trying to find friends or family of a man who died in a Washington County house fire Saturday.
The fire happened around 5 a.m. at a home on Rear Fallowfield Avenue in Charleroi.
When firefighters arrived at the scene, they found the body of 62-year-old James Harbaugh outside near a fence.
“My assistant chief was reporting an individual was laid out in the backyard, appeared to be burned. We concentrated on him, realized he was deceased,” Charleroi Fire Chief Robert Whiten Jr. said.
Harbaugh was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:42 a.m.
Investigators think Harbaugh was inside the house but ran out after a flash fire was ignited by oxygen tanks.
“We’re figuring something with the oxygen unit and him making entrance back into his residence, must have been some type of spark or something that might have caused, like, a little flash fire or something and burned him and then flashed through the first floor of the house,” Whiten said.
Officials say Harbaugh was living at the home with no water or gas. He had health issues and kept oxygen tanks. Paramedics had recently treated him for breathing problems.
“He was a quiet man, very nice to the neighborhood. Always walking around, very kind to the people here, and he was just a good gentleman and he’ll be missed,” friend Carol Jackson said.
Whiten hopes this tragedy will remind others about the dangers of smoking near oxygen tanks.
“You need oxygen to start a fire and a cigarette is a fire and don’t take much to have a slight explosion or worse then what we can think of is what happened to this fellow,” Whiten said.
The coroner’s office says anyone with information about Harbaugh’s friends or family is asked to call the Washington County coroner’s office at (724) 228-6785.
Charleroi Regional Police are investigating the incident.