CLINTON TOWNSHIP —Just a day after the fire claimed the house on the 21000 block of Remick Drive, cars were still driving up and down the street, slowing down as the drivers peered at the charred house.
Bits of burned furniture and other items were in front of the house, blackened and burned beyond recognition.
But by far the greatest loss claimed by the mid-morning March 3 fire was the life of 21-year-old Joshua Luczak. The words “WE LOVE U JOSH” and a cross were spray-painted on the front of the house, and the letters “R.I.P.” were painted over each of the boarded-up windows.
The tree in the front yard was adorned with skateboards and blue and white streamers. Several flower bouquets sat at the foot of the tree.
“I just felt like it would be wrong if I didn’t do something,” said Danielle Turay, 23, shortly after placing another bouquet under the tree.
Turay, who lives on neighboring Highview Drive, met Luczak one summer day while she was taking a walk with her son, she said. In fact, Luczak, who lived at the house with his mother, was the first person to welcome her to the neighborhood after she moved there.
Other neighbors shared similar stories of the 2010 L’Anse Creuse High School graduate. They described him as a free-spirited daredevil who loved skateboarding, but was also a generous and consistently happy-go-lucky person. He also worked as a photographer.
He was a familiar face to many on the street who frequently saw him skateboarding around the block. He usually offered a friendly greeting, they said.
“He would do anything for anybody — the biggest heart of any kid ever,” said Lauren Zapinski, who lives across the street and grew up with Luczak. “My mom would call him to fix the computer and he would be over in five seconds.”
Another neighbor recalled how he taught some neighborhood children to skateboard. He even offered to help her husband take down Christmas decorations.
The night before the fire, Luczak and two friends were reportedly watching skateboarding videos at his house. His mother left the house the next morning to go to work.
At about 11:07 a.m. that morning, Clinton Township firefighters were dispatched to the house. The two friends had escaped the house after waking that morning to find smoke inside. They tried to reach Luczak in the bedroom where he was sleeping, but were unable to because of the smoke and fire.
Neighbors said the fire spread quickly, engulfing the house. Smoke was pouring from the home, neighbors said.
Outside the house, the friends were pounding on the windows.
Arriving on the scene, Clinton Township Police Officer Paul Collins went inside the home, trying to locate Luczak, police reports stated. No answers were heard as Collins called out to him. Smoke and flames forced the officer back outside.
Firefighters arrived at the house four minutes after the dispatch call to find the home on fire, according to a statement from the Clinton Township Fire Department.
“You didn’t want to believe he was in the house,” said Lauren Zapinski’s father, John Paul Zapinski, who was at the scene that morning.
Living across the street, John Paul and wife Shelli had known Luczak since he was a toddler, they said. “He was always happy, very kind — would drop anything to help you,” John Paul said.
First-responders found Luczak in the bedroom where they believe the blaze originated. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but fire officials say they do not suspect foul play was involved.
Shane Rogers, who met Luczak at the local skate park, said his friend was the kind of guy who would comfort others about their problems. No matter how long you went without talking to him, Luczak always talked to you like a friend, Rogers said.
“I feel like Joshua is the life of this street, this neighborhood,” added Lauren Zapinski. “It’s not complete without him. This street is lifeless without him.”