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This article was published 8/8/2010 (3857 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE death of 90-year-old man in a Winnipeg Beach house fire is now being investigated as a homicide.
An early morning fire on Friday at Patrick Gallagher's two-storey Ash Avenue home left the building a charred wreck.
An initial investigation into the fire has revealed that it was arson, Const. Miles Hiebert, RCMP Media Relations, said on Sunday.
"Several other residents in the area have also reported recent attempted arsons on their properties," said Hiebert.
He said a 17-year-old youth was questioned, but was later released without charges.
An autopsy at the Health Sciences Centre confirmed that Gallagher died due to smoke inhalation.
Richard Turkewich, acting fire chief of Winnipeg Beach, was first on the scene and said the house was "already fully engulfed in flames," when he arrived.
Turkewich said he could not comment on the ongoing RCMP investigation.
Hiebert said when police arrived at the blaze they found out that the 90-year-old was still inside.
Gallagher's wife Shirley, with whom he recently celebrated his 65th wedding anniversary, managed to escape the fire.
Neighbours said Patrick Gallagher was a longtime cottager at Winnipeg beach, and he recently celebrated his 90th birthday in June.
A birthday message that was published in the Free Press Celebrations section reads, "Happy 90th Birthday! From your loving wife Shirley, your eight children (Tim, Pat, Sean, Mary, Karen, Noreen, Casey and Bridget) and your 16 grandchildren! May your smiling Irish eyes shine upon us for many years to come. Love from all of us."
Gallagher and his wife Shirley also celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary last month, an event so monumental it made the event listings on the Manitoba Homecoming 2010 website.
Tony Pimentel, mayor of Winnipeg Beach, said on Sunday he didn't know specific details about the fire and that the investigation was "now in the capable hands of the RCMP."
Pimentel said there had not been much talk from residents about other attempted arsons, and that people were waiting to see how the investigation would unfold.
Neighbour Pam Salzburger spoke to the Free Press in an interview on Friday, remembering Gallagher as a friendly and sociable man.
"It's not a happy day," said Salzburger. "He liked to talk, a real chatty fellow. He was an old navy boy. He liked to sit outside and talk to people."
Members of the RCMP Major Crime Services, Winnipeg Forensic Identification Services, East Interlake RCMP and the Office of the Fire Commissioner continue to investigate.
-- with files from Sandy Klowak, Mary Agnes Welch and Matt Preprost.