Fire marshal, police investigating suspicious blaze

Homeless man suffers substantial burns at camp in Georgetown woods
November 24, 2021

Story Location:
Douglas Street
Georgetown, DE 19947
United States

A 37-year-old man living in a homeless camp at the end of Douglas Street in Georgetown is fighting for his life at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pa. As of Nov. 23, he was in critical condition.

Teddy Rodrigues was found Nov. 15 in the woods near the camp with substantial burns covering nearly half of his body.

Around 8:30 p.m., the Georgetown Fire Company and Sussex County paramedics were dispatched to the area for a vegetation fire involving an injury. Rodrigues was transported to Crozer-Chester and admitted in critical condition.

Deputy fire marshals were called to the scene and are conducting an investigation with the assistance of Georgetown Police Department. Michael Chionchio, assistant fire marshal, said officials are waiting to speak to the victim.

The origin and cause of this fire are currently under investigation.

A guy you want to help

Jim Martin, director of Shepherd's Place in Georgetown, which is not far from the homeless camp, said Rodrigues comes to the outreach center for donated meals and supplies.

“He's the kind of guy who you really want to help. You know he's a good guy; he gives off that vibe when you meet him,” the homeless advocate said.

Martin said every time he sees Rodrigues, Teddy says, “I love America,” which are the only English words he knows.

“Now he is using a phone app for translation, which has really helped him a lot,” Martin said.

Martin said Rodrigues has been coming to Shepherd's Place off and on over the past two years. “He'd get a job for awhile and find a place to live, and then he would end up back outside in a tent,” he said.

Martin said about 25 people live at the homeless camp near the railroad tracks in Georgetown, and volunteer Heather Langton has been working hard on behalf of Rodrigues. “She has really taken him under her wing,” he said. “She really wants him to move forward.”

Langton was so concerned about Rodrigues, she was able to get on the emergency contact list at the hospital so she can receive updates on his condition. Martin said she told him a doctor at the hospital has been in touch with Rodrigues’ family in Guatemala.

To complicate matters, he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Martin said he has a good idea of what happened that night, but will let police and fire officials complete their investigation.

“He did not light a fire to keep warm. I'm sure of that,” he said.

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