There was only one Kirby Allan.
Literally and figuratively.
A familiar face at Mesa City Council meetings, outspoken critic of city politics and frequent writer of letters to the editor at the Tribune, he died Thursday morning in a fire that destroyed his home after saving the life of a longtime female companion who made it out of the house, according to the Mesa Fire Department.
Allan, 83, was a study in contrasts. He was a musician but also a perennial mayor and Council candidate. A Tribune article published in 2004 reported he had run for mayor nine times since 1986, but would not distribute mailers or put up signs because he considered it to be buying votes.
As recent as February, Allan said that he would support the death penalty “if it also goes for Mesa’s crooked politicians.” But he once wrote in a letter to the editor: “The more positives you feel, think and act on, the more the negative disappears. Negatives cannot live where there’s an abundance of positives.”
At some point early Thursday, Allan woke a woman who lived in the house with him at 2043 E. Hackamore St. with him and told her she had to get out of the house, according to Forrest Smith, a Mesa fire spokesman.
“He saved her life,” Smith said. “She went one way, and he went the other. He was unable to make it out.”
The woman, whom neighbors know as Marlaina, was taken to a local hospital where her condition is unknown.
Allan had one daughter and two sons, according to neighbors.
Allan, who liked animals, had a number of chickens and ducks, but they were outside and in the yard of the home, Smith said.
He also was a music buff and played the electric guitar.
According to Allan’s website, www.exoticaandbeyond.com, he started off as a crooner in the Frank Sinatra era, recording many popular songs, including the top hit “Roamin,” which launched his Hollywood career in 1952.
After a military discharge following World War II, Kirby used his GI Bill compensation to enter a Chicago music conservatory, and began singing in various night clubs. He moved to Hollywood in further pursuit of his music.
Allan’s eclectic musical taste sent him to Africa’s Gold Coast, recording the sensual drumming of various tribes used in wedding ceremonies and mating rituals, blending a style that became known as “Chaino” and jungle rock.
Fire's cause unknown
About 60 firefighters battled the blaze at Allan’s tan block construction ranch home for slightly more than an hour, Smith said. The cause of the blaze is unknown and it’s too early to tell whether the fire is suspicious, he said.
The fire was concentrated at the front of the residence, causing billows of smoke and 25-foot flames to rise to the attic before the roof caved.
“The billows of smoke made visibility very difficult, and crews had to get out of the house because the roof was collapsing,” Smith said. “The woman said she was unable to get out the front door of the house.”
Mesa firefighters were aided by the Gilbert Fire Department, and firefighters on the scene had to go defensive moments before the roof collapsed.
It was not immediately known who reported the fire to emergency services, Smith said.
The smell of smoke along the street remained strong Thursday afternoon.
Allan’s family members and cleanup crews stood in the front yard of the home, but declined to comment. The house stands out in the neighborhood because of the large Statue of Liberty replica in the front yard.
One of his young neighbors saw the fire and was saddened to hear that he had died in the blaze.
“I always saw him get his mail, and we would talk,” said Tyler Senftner, 13. “He was a very good guy, a nice man who was down to earth. He loved his country. It’s a tragedy to see him go.”
“We talked sports and politics,” Senftner added. “We would talk about President Obama. He didn’t like Obama, but I kind of like Obama. We would disagree.”
Linda Louden, one of Allan’s next-door neighbors, said her family slept through the whole fire and didn’t know it had happened until Thursday morning.
“It’s very sad,” Louden said.
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