UPDATE: Elderly West Covina man found dead inside burning home

WEST COVINA — Firefighters responding to a house fire Thursday discovered the body of an 82-year-old resident in what homicide investigators labeled a “suspicious death.”
The name of the man was not available pending positive identification through the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.
A passer-by reported seeing the fire in the 900 block of Holiday Drive just after 11 a.m., about the same time a fire alarm within the home was triggered, West Covina Fire Department Capt. Scott Gilmore said.
“Our first-in units arrived at 11:11 a.m. and found heavy smoke showing from all the vents,” the captain said. “The front door was locked, so they had to force entry.”
They found the home already filled with smoke.
While battling the fire, firefighters found the elderly resident unconscious in a back room, said Lt. Dave Dolson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau, which is assisting West Covina police in the investigation.
Firefighters moved the man to the backyard, where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
Thirty-two firefighters from the West Covina and Los Angeles County fire departments extinguished the house fire in about 30 minutes, though stubborn hot spots prevented detectives from entering the home for well over an hour, officials said.
After examining the scene of the fire with other detectives and arson investigators, “There are some indicators that the death is suspicious,” Dolson said. “I can’t get into the specifics.”
The fire primarily scorched the south side of the home, though there was heavy smoke damage throughout, Gilmore said.
It was not clear Thursday which room the fire started in, and the investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing.
Gilmore believed the elderly resident was in good physical health prior to the fire.
Neighbor Nate Gapasin, 62, said he was shocked and saddened to learn someone had died in the fire.
He said an elderly man had lived in the home since the housing tract was built in 1987, but he only knew the man from casual greetings.
“He was my neighbor since day one,” Gapasin said. “I hope it’s not him.”
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

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