PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A man was found dead after Portsmouth firefighters responded to a tent fire Monday morning.
Portsmouth firefighters said they responded to a 911 call around 8:30 a.m. for a possible shed fire on Shea Street, off Portsmouth Blvd. south of Portsmouth City Park.
When they got to the scene they found that a tent had been on fire and a man was inside. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
It’s still unclear what led to the fire at this time, but investigators are at the scene working to determine the cause.
One neighbor told 10 On Your Side’s Lauryn Moss the man is Allen Smith. She didn’t want to be identified, but said Smith has been in the neighborhood since she moved in around the late 90’s.
“There was a house there previously, but it had been demolished by the city,” she said. “He had a shed there because there was no electricity, running water or sewage and he was living on it. It had to come down.”
The neighbor said she hadn’t seen him recently. She said he found a temporary place to stay, but it didn’t work out.
Around four weeks ago, she said she saw Smith pushing himself in his wheelchair down the street.
“He said, ‘I have a tent I moved back in,'” the neighbor said.
That concerned her, especially coming into the colder months. She brought him food and anything he needed. She said that was often cigarettes, Pepsi and a piece of pizza.
The neighbor even helped waterproof his tent.
“I certainly tried to give a hand as best as I could, but it obviously didn’t help,” she said.
The neighbor told 10 On Your Side she had reach out to social services to try to get Smith a better place to sleep.
She said he would spend nights at a hospital, but would be released back to the tent.
The neighbor said she’d call the police, and even emergency services for help.
“He shouldn’t even been in the tent in the first place,” she said.
After hearing this devastating news, she is frustrated.
“I don’t think this should have happened,” she said. “I am very sad. I don’t want that man to be in pain. I didn’t want him to be in pain. I certainly didn’t want him to die like that. It’s just a tragedy that’s the end for him, and it could have been so much different.”
She added: “I think a lot of the system failed. I know they are there for the right reason. At some point, there are so many system and so many hoops to jump through one person got lost.”