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Alaska News

Homer man known for community involvement dies in water heater explosion, troopers say

A Homer man died Tuesday in a water heater explosion, said Ken Marsh, a spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers.

Investigators were called to check on 68-year-old Gary Thomas when his wife reported him overdue just after 11 p.m., according to an online alert. Homer police and Thomas’ friends tracked his phone to an area near Cottonwood Hill Avenue and East End Road, troopers wrote.

His vehicle was found outside a home, and Homer police said he was dead inside. Troopers said they believe he was fatally injured in a water heater explosion. Troopers said it is unclear what caused the explosion.

Thomas was deeply involved in the Homer community, said Kathleen Gustafson, interim news director at Homer’s public radio station KBBI. He was a founding member of KBBI and was the general manager from 1980 to 1991. Thomas was later the editor and publisher of the town’s weekly newspaper, the Homer News.

Thomas was a member of the Homer Volunteer Fire Department since 1979, according to the Alaska Association of Fire and Arson Investigators. He was a firefighter, EMT, engineer, captain, assistant fire chief, interim acting chief and investigator. He also volunteered at the Kachemak Emergency Services.

According to a bio on the fire and arson investigators site, Thomas started a business checking on homes while owners were away. He recently sold the company, the bio said.

Gustafson said she will remember him as “the kind of guy who would come out for every single fundraiser, every single auction, he would advocate for charity and he was a Rotarian.”

“He worked really hard but I knew him for his volunteerism,” she said. “He was incredibly generous with his time.”