• Bainbridge Island fire claims life of retired Hollywood agent

    By: Deborah Horne

    Updated:

    A family is sharing memories of a retired talent agent who died in a fire on Bainbridge Island Thursday. And those who jumped into action are speaking out about their efforts credited with getting everyone else out alive.

    Firefighters say they're still trying to figure out what caused this fire.  

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    The victim's family told KIRO 7 they believe a candle started it. Thomas Jennings, they said, simply could not put it out as the fire soon gutted his first floor unit and the unit above it.

    Kris Erwin saw flames shooting out of his neighbors' condos while eating dinner Thursday night. 

    "And looked and my partner, Daniel, saw that there was smoke coming out of the building," Erwin said. "And we immediately grabbed our shoes and ran to the building."

    "And in front of my unit there's a fire extinguisher," said Daniel Warner. "So I busted that open. And that's when we started yelling 'fire' in between the hallway of all the units."

    "And my partner, Daniel, saw a woman on the top floor with her dogs leaning out the window," said Erwin. "And so he yelled at another guy that happened to be close by. And they were able to get the ladder up to her and got her out."

    By then, Jennings' wife, Jill, was standing outside their first floor unit. Another man tried crawling into the unit to get him.

    "The ceiling had fallen and there was some kind of glass breaking," said Warner. "And so he was on the side of the explosion or whatever it was as he crawled out."

    Jennings was trapped in the flames. His son said a burning candle fell and quickly ignited a roaring fire. 

    "And he couldn't put it out," said John Jennings. "It was something that most of us probably could have stomped it out with a foot. But he just did not know how to react to it."

    He said his father had a storied career as a Hollywood agent, "managed a lot of famous people like Burl Ives and Caesar Romero, Cheryl Ladd."

    But he said saddest of all is that his father's death brings to an end a beautiful love story. 

    His parents reunited five years ago after 22 years apart. They remarried last year and celebrated their second first anniversary last Monday.

    "And they're happy as can be," said John. "Never happier, ever than they were in the last five years together. My mom, she's a complete, wreck, obviously. She lost everything there. Her big purpose in life was with him."

    A friend who knew Jennings since he moved to Bainbridge Island said Jennings' walls were lined with photographs of the famous Hollywood people he had met.Those photos destroyed in the fire, too.

    The Kitsap County Fire Marshal is still investigating the fire.  An official cause could be released early next week.

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