CANNON TOWNSHIP, MICH. - The husband of a woman who died in a fire on Friday afternoon in Cannon Township says he tried to save his wife multiple times. He believes a faulty electrical outlet started the fire.
Alan Combs described in detail what happened as the fire started at his residence around 5 p.m. at 6440 Fricke Ct. NE. He says he had worked as a substitute teacher earlier in the day on Friday and came home to take a nap in the basement of his house.
At the same time his wife, 65-year-old Bev Combs was sleeping in the living room upstairs.
Combs says he heard his wife screaming upstairs at the same time he heard the smoke alarms in the house going off. He says he rushed upstairs to find the house fully engulfed in flames and smoke. About a third of the house was on fire when he woke up.
"When I opened up the door to go upstairs, I heard the roar of the fire when I stepped in and I stepped in to heavy smoke and flames roaring in the front," Alan Combs said. "I couldn't get anywhere near her and by that time she was no longer hollering my name."
He suspected she had already passed out from smoke inhalation but tried one last time to get her out of the house.
"I tried to get in the back slider and the door fell in on me and I was engulfed in super heated smoke at that moment," Alan Combs said. "I was a basket case mentally because I know there was nothing I could do."
Alan Combs says Monday was the first time he's been able to speak about the incident since it happened on Friday.
"The slightest thought of Bev and I was just gasping and tears, the speechless-wailing kind," Combs said.
Alan Combs worked for close to three decades in the Jackson Police Department and reached the rank of sergeant. Family members and friends gave Bev the nickname of "sergeant mom".
Combs has an interesting perspective on the fire because he is a former arson investigator from his police employment. He says he looked at the house and all the evidence involved and pinpointed the fire to a faulty outlet in the garage that had stopped working recently.
"There was no other source of ignition in there (other than the defective outlet)," Combs said.
Fire investigators have stopped short of pinpointing an outlet as the cause, though Cannon Township Fire Chief James Morris says there's no question the deadly fire started in the garage of the house. Morris said his firefighters responded within six minutes to the alarm. He says they were in good position to cool the house down to allow firefighters to get inside to extract the victim.
Combs said he was leaning on friends and family to try to get through what he witnessed.
Alan and Bev Combs' son, Aaron, came home late last night from his military deployment in Iraq. He was granted emergency leave and was greeted by dozens of family and friends at Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.
We watched as he walked up the driveway to the couple's home Monday morning. He greeted his dad with a hug as loved ones began to cry.
Alan says he plans to rebuild a house at the current location in memory of his wife.
"My purpose in life was to care for her and that purpose is gone," he said. "She had a heart that was much bigger than her body was. She would give away the world if she could."
Visitation for Bev Combs is Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. at the Pederson Funeral Home. The memorial service will be 11a.m. Thursday, June 8, at Crossroads Church in Rockford.
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