One person dead after Lehigh Acres house fire

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
The scene of a house fire on Willow Drive in Lehigh Acres. Credit: WINK News

A house fire in Lehigh Acres on Tuesday left one person dead. Now, neighbors and a pastor describe the man who they say died as a generous guy who only cared about helping others.

Authorities have confirmed that a man died in the home, but they are not yet identifying the man.

Many people who spoke with WINK News said the man who lived at the house was a character, but the best kind of character. They said he would make jokes, always there to smile, and while he was older, he always offered to help anyone who needed it.

According to the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District, the fire was reported by a neighbor of a residence on the 900 block of Willow Drive at 6:20 a.m. Crews located and removed a dead person from the home while extinguishing the fire.

“I just heard a lot of screaming, and I heard his dogs and then finally the sirens come out. You could kind of see all the smoke coming out of his house,” said neighbor Collin Calavano.

While investigators won’t confirm the victim’s name, neighbors all say the person who lived there was an elderly man who lived alone, with no family around. “His only companion really was his dog,” said Calavano.

A neighbor went inside and saved the dog, but it was too smokey and too hot to get to the person inside.

WINK News learned that the man living in the home volunteered at the food pantry at the First Community Congregational Church. “He came every Tuesday and every Thursday. He was always one of the first ones here and one of the last ones to leave,” said First Community Congregational Church Reverend Deborah Frysinger.

Reverend Frysinger said the homeowner was supposed to be at the church on Tuesday morning. Instead, two of his neighbors came to tell her the news. “And you see, a week ago, a little more than a week ago, he didn’t come, and I bailed him out when he did come, I set someone to his home to make a wellness check because I told him you have to call someone if you’re not going to come in! You have to! Because you know I will call the police or send someone to check, and he laughed at me,” said Frysinger. She had 12 years of stories to tell about the dedicated volunteer.

“He would always be there for you. It’s already been one day, and we already miss him a lot,” said Enrique Gomez, a volunteer at First Community Congregational Church.

Frysinger said he had a tough life but was a wonderful person. “It was hard, very hard, and he and I had a connection. I talked to a detective and I talked to a fireman and I’ve talked to a police officer today and none of them believe that he had any family. This church was his family. This church was his family,” said Frysinger.

The state fire marshall has taken over the investigation but said that the fire has been deemed an accident. They are still working to find out exactly what caused the fire.

Lee County Domestic Animal Services says they have the dog saved from the home in their custody.

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