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Tent fire burns homeless man

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

PORTERDALE -- A homeless man who was severely burned when his tent caught fire was able to crawl to a nearby roadside and stop a passerby for help, according to reports from the Newton County Fire Service.

Fire Chief Mike Satterfield said the Fire Department sent an investigator to the intersection of Ga. Highway 81 and Crowell Road about noon Sunday in response to a call regarding the injured man.

According to information provided by the Fire Department, the man, who was apparently homeless and living in nearby woods, was injured sometime Saturday night when a portable propane heater inside his tent overturned and set the tent on fire.

"Apparently he was asleep at the time because it did burn him quite a bit before he could get away from it," Fire Chief Mike Satterfield said. "He had burns to his face, hand, leg and numerous areas of the body. The worst burns appeared to be to his face."

Satterfield said the victim told officials he was able to put out the fire but was unable to call for help.

"He apparently was unable to shout or to reach anyone," Satterfield added. "His report initially to us was that he was finally able to crawl out on the shoulder of the road and a passerby saw him."

Lt. Brad Stapp, who responded to the scene Sunday, said once the man's heater tipped over the tent burned quickly.

"It was one of those nylon tents. It didn't take much. Once it got started, it just burned down around him," Stapp said.

Stapp said the 56-year-old man crawled out to Crowell Road from his campsite in the wooded area south of the Crowell Road/Ga. 81 intersection. He was taken by air ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. His condition was unavailable as of press time.

Lt. James Pilgrim of the Porterdale Police Department said his department was called to the scene Sunday to help set up a landing zone for the helicopter ambulance. Traffic on Crowell Road was stopped in order for the ambulance to land.

Stapp said based on reports it appeared the man had lived in the wooded area at the intersection of Crowell Road and Highway 81 for quite a while where he had accumulated an assortment of items.

"It's sad, especially in times like they are, that something like this would happen," he said.