An elderly man has died and his 58-year-old wife is in critical condition following a house fire Thursday on Hethrington Avenue in Winnipeg.

The fire broke out just before 3 a.m. in the 500 block of Hethrington Avenue.

Officers on patrol in the area of Morley Avenue and Nassau Street noticed smoke and then spotted the home on fire.

Police called for firefighters and officers tried to get inside the house but were forced out by smoke and intense heat.

Fire crews responded and managed to get both people out of the home. They were rushed to hospital, but the man died from his injuries.

Friends and family identified the couple as Bert Parry and his wife Joanne.

They said Parry had lived in the Fort Rouge home for more than 80 years.

Nettie Wagner was Parry’s next door neighbour for nearly 50 years.

She remembers a man who was dedicated to knowing his neighbourhood and helping out any way he could.

“If I had to go some place in a hurry or something, he’d always give me a ride,” said Wagner.

Sal Taliani was Bert’s best friend.

Taliani said Bert was a talented wood and metal worker who loved to tinker and fix things.

“He loved the house and he loved the neighbourhood even more,” said Taliani.

“There are lots of generous people but with Bert, he did not expect or ask for anything back,” he said.

Taliani said Bert use to run the neighbourhood trolley and later worked for MTS, where he met his future wife Joanne.

Joanne had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and the two were managing at home.

“She was not doing well in the last months but he took it up on himself to look after her,” said Taliani.

He said he can’t imagine life without his best friend or the loss that will be felt by the community.

Fire investigators haven't been able to determine the cause of the blaze, but early indications suggest it started in the kitchen.

Despite strong winds, fire crews managed to keep the blaze from spreading to other homes.

Damage is estimated at $200,000.