Former U Professor Dies in House Fire

Former U Professor Dies in House Fire

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Tonya Papanikolas Reporting"I still think that he walks out of thr rubble, but it's the fact that I have to face for the rest of my life."

Friends and family are mourning the loss of a former University of Utah professor who died in a house fire early this morning.

At 2:30 a.m. firefighters responded to a fire at a duplex. The neighbor on the other side of the duplex had woken up to the sound of banging pipes and a campfire smell. He says he went outside and only saw smoke coming from the chimney. He felt his neighbors' front window and it was hot. So he called police.

Dozens of firefighters responded to the three-alarm call in Cottonwood Heights. They heard a person was possibly in the basement, but they discovered the house was unstable.

Capt. Greg Reynolds, Unified Fire Authority: "They did have a complete floor collapse from the first floor down into the basement. The entire floor is down on top. We have a lot of debris."

Fire crews then moved on the defensive, attacking the flames from the air. Meanwhile, no one saw the resident of the home, Leonardo Alishan.

His family lives in California. When they were notified of the fire, they started calling friends in Utah to check on the house. Debby Stone heard from Alishan's nephew.

Debby Stone, Family Friend: "I got a call this morning at 6:30 and he asked me to come up here and see if his uncle was okay, what was going on. I'm waiting to see if he was in there."

A good friend kept in touch with Alishan's ex-wife.

Hamid Aminian, Friend: "It's too much, especially for his youngest daughter, who he loved dearly."

Around noon, those friends learned a man had died in the fire. His friends knew it was Alishan.

Hamid Aminian: " I still can't believe it."

Alishan taught Middle Eastern Studies and Persian languages at the U for 20 years. He had three children and acted like an older brother to Aminian.

Hamid Aminian: "He was a wonderful man, very caring person. And it's too hard to believe that he's gone."

Aminian says he can't forget the good times he shared with his friend.

Hamid Aminian: "It's just like a movie, you know, I can't get over it, I can't get over it. I dearly miss him."

His friends say he has a lot of former students who will miss him a lot. Lately he was devoting much of his time to writing poetry and short stories.

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