A senior died Thursday morning as he battled a small fire within the cluttered basement of his East Vancouver home.

“It was a very small fire,” said Capt. Gabe Roder of Vancouver Fire and Rescue.

“Small, but tragic. From the outside of the home you would never have known it was a fire.”

Media reports identified the victim as Steve Kulash, a taxidermist who worked in Burnaby and whose work was included in the recent Ravishing Beasts exhibit at the Vancouver Museum.

Roder said the 72-year-old died because he decided to stay and fight the fire.

“He did the wrong thing. He should have got out. He should have just left the house and called 911.”

The fire, which appeared to have been sparked by an overloaded electrical circuit and a faulty extension cord, broke out around 3:30 a.m. at the house, located in the 600 block of East 23rd Avenue.

Kulash’s 47-year-old son, who was also in the house when the fire started, woke his father and then ran out to call for help. He was treated in hospital for smoke inhalation after he tried to get back into the house. In an interview, Kulash’s other son Bryan told CBC News that he didn’t know why his father would have stayed.

“He was smarter than that,” Bryan Kulash said. “But that black smoke. It only takes a second and you’re done.”

Complicating the situation, Roder said, was a large amount of clutter in the home.

He said it added fuel to the fire and made it difficult for people to get out and for firefighters to get in. About 20 firefighters, stationed only three blocks away, were on the scene within minutes of the call, Roder added.