Radio executive Anthony W. Rose, whose body was found Saturday during a house fire in Silver Spring, died of smoke inhalation after he doused himself with a flammable liquid and set himself on fire, according to a preliminary autopsy report and police and fire officials.

Donald Wright, of the Maryland Medical Examiner's Office, said Rose's death has been ruled a suicide "based on information given to me by the police." Wright said Montgomery County police told him Rose, sales manager for WGMS-FM and AM, had left "several suicide notes" before he died.

A police source confirmed that police had found a suicide note from Rose, but declined to discuss the specifics.

Wright said Rose, 37, died of smoke inhalation and suffered second- and third-degree burns over about 90 percent of his body. Rose, who two years ago tried unsuccessfully with a group of minority investors to purchase WKYS-FM (93.9), was alone in his house in the 9800 block of Cherry Tree Lane when the fire was reported about 5:28 p.m., police and fire officials said.

Rose had been released from the Montgomery County Detention Center hours earlier on $100,000 bond in connection with a domestic dispute, according to court documents. The statement of charges says Rose was arrested Wednesday and charged with assault and battery.

Rose's death and the unusual circumstances surrounding it shocked and saddened many of his friends and associates in local broadcasting.

"This is a travesty," said Zemari Jones, general sales manager at WDJY-FM (100.3). "He had so much pride in himself . . . . "

Jones said he had known Rose professionally for 14 years. Rose worked as national sales manager at WDJY for about 18 months before leaving several months ago for WGMS, Jones said.

Like many of Rose's friends, Jones said he found it hard to believe that Rose would kill himself. "Suicide would be the farthest thing. He was a positive, successful person in media in Washington. From what I know of his character, it just doesn't match."

Catherine Meloy, general manager at WGMS, said she hired Rose five months ago because of his "high reputation in the community and broadcasting industry. He had risen to positions of responsibility and respect."

"He was one of the best salespeople in this market," said Bobby Bennett, program director of WHUR-FM (96.3), who knew Rose professionally for 10 years.

Rose's wife, who is staying with relatives in Silver Spring, declined to comment yesterday. Rose has a son.

The fire caused about $200,000 in damage to Rose's two-story house, officials said. A firefighter suffered minor injuries in the blaze, which took about 15 minutes to extinguish.

In mid-1988, Rose joined Washington FM Radio Partners, an investors' group that included radio personality Candy Shannon and former WRQX-FM (107.3) general manager Earnie Fears Jr., in a bid to purchase WKYS for about $50 million from National Broadcasting Co. Rose's group lost the bidding contest to Albimar Communications, a Boston-based, minority-controlled investment group.