Mesa PD investigating a fatal fire as a homicide

Posted at 5:20 PM, Mar 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-24 23:23:25-04

Mesa police say they are now investigating a fatal fire as a homicide.

74-year-old Joe Chouinard was killed when his home caught fire just before 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

Officials say Chouinard - who was away having dinner with friends - became trapped inside the home when he went inside to try and get his car keys.

"I had no idea Joe was in the house. Then I saw the blanket and that's when I lost it," said neighbor Barbara Hill. 

Neighbors say Chouinard was a good friend, and proud grandparent who often helped other neighbors.

"If he had a dime he would give you the dime out of his pocket. If you asked for his shirt he would give you the one of his back," said neighbor Harold Burns.

The fire at Chouinard's home is the latest in a series of fires affecting the retirement community near Sossaman Road and US 60.

"It's very suspicious because we don't know what's going to happen next," said Burns.

Mesa fire investigators spent Thursday searching the area. It's unclear what caused the fire, but detectives brought out a special dog capable of smelling fire accelerants.

Officials say they are considering the fire suspicious. Chouinard's death is considered a homicide.