Family shocked after elderly man dies in house fire

The cold weather may have played a part in the death of an East Texas man, Earl Johnson, who died after a morning house fire. It happened just outside of Gladewater. The call came in around 6:30 this morning in the 5600 block of Sweetgum Road, just west of Gladewater.

KLTV 7's Bob Hallmark has more on a community that is mourning the loss of a man well-known to many.

"It doesn't make sense."

Crews from Gladewater, Clarksville City and Big Sandy rushed to the remote area known as Red Rock, off Sweetgum, where they found the home engulfed in flames.

"The house was totally involved," said Paul Steelman, the Upshur County fire marshal.

71 year old Earl Johnson was trapped in the back corner of the home and died in the fire.

"I mean it's a big loss not only to our family but to everybody around here because everybody in this community is family," said Carolyn Johnson, the victim's sister-in-law. "Anything he could do for anybody, it was just in him to always be there for any and everybody."

Family and neighbors were shattered to hear the passing of a man who was a fixture in the community.

"Retired military, served in the war, he helped organize the Red Rock community and things like that," said Carolyn.

Johnson's wife escaped, and investigators believe he may have gone back into the home thinking his wife was still inside.

"The one subject that did live here, did not make it out," said Steelman. "We don't know if a heater or something like that was the cause of this fire yet but several times in the winter that is the case."

For his family there is only confusion on why.

"It's more of a state of shock right now trying to be able to accept this and understand it," said Carolyn.

While investigators think the heater may have played a part, the cause of the fire remains under investigation. Funeral arrangements are pending for Earl Johnson.

Bob Hallmark, reporting.