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Cause of fatal Healdsburg fire traced to stove

A 34-year-old Healdsburg man who died of injuries suffered in a Saturday morning fire at his home apparently was doing one of the most mundane of tasks when the deadly blaze erupted.

"It appeared that (he) was attempting to light the stove and a flash fire occurred, catching (his) clothes on fire," Sonoma County Fire Chief Mark Aston said Sunday.

Troy Voelkel, who fought his way out of the burning apartment through a window, suffered second- and third-degree burns over his entire body, Aston said. He died 10 hours later, at 7 p.m., at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where he had been flown, said his father, Ed Voelkel.

Fire officials were at the scene of the 9 a.m. fire, which occurred when Voelkel was alone, in a rural area west of Healdsburg for eight hours Saturday.

They said although the investigation wasn't officially closed, they believed Voelkel likely had no warning of the explosion of flames.

Investigators found a tube directing gas to the stove's burner was disconnected, said County Fire Marshal Roberta MacIntyre.

"Presumably, trying to get it started, that compartment that's between the oven and the burners, where all the gas piping goes, filled with natural gas," MacIntyre said.

"You get that gas in a little compartment like that, you've got essentially a little bit of a bomb," she said.

Voelkel lived with two roommates and had moved only a month or so ago to the small, single-family house on West Grant Street, west of Highway 101. But he had called Healdsburg home since he was 18 when his family moved from Orange County, his father said.

Although bothered by allergies, "he loved it here," Ed Voelkel said.


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