A man was killed and a woman is in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after a house fire in Oak Harbor Tuesday night, according to the Oak Harbor Fire Department.
The Island County coroner identified the man as 92-year-old Robert Gatti. The cause of death is smoke inhalation.
His wife, 79-year-old Beverly Gatti, is in critical but stable condition at Harborview as of Friday afternoon.
Michael Marcelino, a Navy logistics specialist with VP-1, was driving to the grocery store and saw the smoke billowing from the house on Southeast Sixth Avenue near the intersection with Southeast Ireland Street at around 9:45 p.m.
Marcelino said he turned to look and saw the flames inside. He stopped his car and jumped out to help.
A neighbor woman was coming out of her house after hearing the sound of glass breaking. He yelled to her to call 911.
Marcelino said he went in through the garage and opened the door to the house.
He was immediately overwhelmed by black smoke and heat. He called out to see if anyone was inside, but didn’t hear a response.
“I would have tried to run in if I heard someone,” he said.
The neighbor told him that the dispatcher advised that he should not go into the house, so he backed out.
By that time, he said, the living room of the house was entirely engulfed in flames.
Firefighters with the Oak Harbor Fire Department arrived shortly afterward, he said.
The response took less than three minutes, according to Fire Chief Ray Merrill.
Firefighters suited up and went into the house. They had to feel their way around in the complete darkness caused by the smoke, Merrill explained.
They quickly retrieved the unconscious man and woman and placed them in ambulances, Marcelino recalled.
Paramedics tried to resuscitate the man, but he did not survive and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The woman was transported to the hospital in Coupeville and then airlifted to Harborview, the chief said.
The fire originated in the living room and was contained there. Merrill said the cause of the fire has not been definitively established, but it “most definitely” looks like an accident caused by combustible materials left in front of a heat source.
Merrill said the fire burned very hot. He estimates that it was 1,200 degrees at the ceiling and about 200 degrees at the floor.
In addition to the Oak Harbor Fire Department, the Navy fire department and WhidbeyHealth ambulances responded to the scene.
Marcelino said he was shocked to see other people drive by the fire and not stop to help.
“It was crazy,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
He felt he had no choice but to help and wishes he could have done more.