The fire started as strong and damaging storms blew through East Texas early Saturday morning. Burnett said investigators aren’t sure if the fire was started by a lightning strike or by down power lines, but did say it was weather related.
Burnett said Max Heinen, 67, was able to get all nine children ranging in age from 3 to 16-years-old out of the home. After Heinen sent the kids to a neighbor’s house to call for help, Burnett said he went back into the home to try and save the dog.
Heinen’s body was found just 10 feet from where one of his children said he entered the home.
The Red Cross is assisting Heinen’s widow and the nine foster children. She was out of town when the fire happened, but returned to Canton later Saturday morning.
This fatal fire on County Road 2309 near Canton was one of two fires in Van Zandt County as the storm blew through. Another weather-related fire damaged a vacant home on County Road 2319, Burnett said.
Burnett said they also had reports of trees down and debris in areas around the county.
Authorities in Mabank also reported trees and power lines down throughout the city. Just two buildings had “extreme damage,” according to officials. Other homes had reports of roof damage. Late Saturday the National Weather Service said a brief EF1 tornado touched down in Mabank.
Chopper Five also got video Saturday morning of the Stonebriar Apartments in the 3300 block of West 7th Street in Corsicana. The roof was torn off a portion of one building and debris was scattered on the roof of another building.
East Texans likely experienced damage from straight-line winds-- not a tornado, according to NBCDFW meteorologists. Winds were as high as 89 miles-per-hour, which is the same as a category one hurricane.
No other injuries were reported as a result of the storms.
NBC DFW's Ellen Goldberg contributed to this report.