Body found after South Hill apartment fire

SPOKANE, Wash. - Fire crews discovered the body of a tenant in the aftermath of an apartment fire at 1203 W. 8th Avenue Thursday evening.

The tenant, a 50-year-old man, was discovered under a pile of clothing on the closet floor as firefighters were searching the apartment.

Spokane Police Major Crimes detectives were called in after the body was discovered as was the medical examiner.

Body found after South Hill apartment fire

After an autopsy Friday afternoon, the medical examiner identified the victim as John K. Reintjes, 50. His cause of death was verified as smoke inhalation.

The fire started around 4 p.m. and crews first on the scene broke the door down with an axe and began immediately searching the apartment for any people or animals inside. They didn't find anyone, later conducted a second search and again did not find anyone.

Reintjes' body was found huddled six hours later, around 10 p.m., under a pile of clothes in a closet behind a partially closed door as firefighters were removing debris from the apartment after the fire.

While their investigation into the deadly fire is ongoing, investigators believe the fire started on the couch. There were two tenants living in the residence and both were smokers; Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the fire appears to have started on the couch by either candles or smoking materials, and appears to be accidental in nature.

The second tenant was not at home at the time of the fire.

As for why Reintjes was found in the closet, Schaeffer said that despite educating people on what to do in a fire, sometimes people head for a closet or a bathtub instead of finding a way to escape the fire.

"When they are faced with, especially out of a sleep with a fire situation, regardless of how much we try to educate kids on immediately crawling get low and go and find an escape, sometimes people go to closets or bathrooms or the bathtubs [or] under beds," he said.

At some point after he got into the closet the hangers melted due to the intense heat from the fire and the clothes fell on top of him, concealing his body until fire crews found him hours later.

Investigators report there were two smoke detectors in the residence but neither had batteries in them.

The fire cause approximately $50,000 in damage.