The intense flames and heat from Monday's Richland house fire proved too much to save a 77-year-old man.
Morris "Sam" Rowlette died after being pulled from his burning home. He had lived there for at least 30 years, records show.
His caretaker spotted the blaze Monday and tried to get inside, said Richland's Deputy Fire Marshal Keith Ramsay.
"From what police said, 'This guy made a pretty heroic effort to save this man's life," Ramsay said Tuesday.
Investigators plan to go into the damaged home on the 1300 block of Dakota Avenue on Wednesday to try to figure out what caused the fire that swept through the small home in the Richland Wye area.
When he couldn't get inside, Rowlette's caretaker ran to get help across the street at Zerorez, a carpet cleaning company in an industrial building.
When three of Tyson Chapman's employees returned with the caretaker to the house, thick black smoke was pouring out the door and they called 911.
The office workers heard an explosion as they were standing near the home. Rowlette was in failing health and used supplied oxygen.
Richland Fire Chief Tom Huntington said the only way inside the house was through the front door. A rear entrance was blocked from the inside.
Firefighters from Richland and Kennewick battled the blaze back before being able to bring Rowlette outside.
Medics spent several minutes performing CPR before he was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland. Rowlette was pronounced dead at the hospital.
His caretaker, whose name was not released, was treated for smoke inhalation and later released from the hospital.
Benton County Coroner John Hansens is working with police and fire investigators before deciding if an autopsy is necessary.
Chapman said he met Rowlette when Zerorez moved into the commercial building five years ago. The senior was not well then and under medical care.
"We kept an eye out for him," Chapman said. "We'd go over there every once and a while and clean his carpet."