Last Updated: 11:23 a.m.
A homeless person was found dead as firefighters battled a small fire in the wooded, vacant land between Superwash Express and the construction zone for a new assisted living facility off Cypress Point Parkway in Palm Coast Sunday night.
“They’re calling it a suspicious death right now,” a Flagler County Sheriff’s spokesperson said. The identity of the individual is unknown.
Late this morning the sheriff’s office released an incident report that, while not yet identifying the individual, revealed him to be a 63-year-old homeless man.
Palm Coast Fire Department firefighters were called to the scene, a 1.5-acre parcel, at 8:41 p.m., when the call was for a brush fire. It was the same area where firefighters were called last week, for the same reason.
“When we arrived it was about 30 by 30, crews started putting water on the fire,” Palm Coast Fire Department Battalion Chief Gary Potter said. “While we were doing fire attack, we came across a deceased victim. That being said we continued the fire attack away from the body, and then contacted the state fire marshal’s office, then put out the rest of the fire.”
The fire was contained to the 30-by-30 area, a few feet from a tent presumably used by a homeless person. The blue and white tent was intact, as was a bicycle, a few feet further off. “The body was in the fire area,” Potter said.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office was soon on the scene, establishing a crime scene, as was the state fire marshal and the Palm Coast Fire Police. (Engine 21, Engine 23, Battalion 20 and 22 had all responded.)
According to a sheriff’s incident report, Palm Coast firefighter Patrick Juliano told authorities that when firefighters arrived at the scene, Juliano “observed an older white male riding his bicycle on Cypress Point Pkwy towards Belle Terre Pkwy.” A 22-year-old Palm Coast resident had noticed the fire while driving by, calling it in. The caller had also noticed that “an older male, wearing a gray sweat shirt, with blue jeans [was] leaving the area on a bicycle.” The 22 year old talked to the unknown man as he was exiting the woods, asking him what happened. “The unknown male stated that he did not know and [started] to pedal away,” the incident report states.
Firefighters cleared the scene just before midnight, not long after the arrival of the medical examiner, who claimed the body and took it to St. Augustine for an autopsy. At dawn this morning, only one official from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services was at the scene, which was still roped off, as workers from Superwash Express were preparing to open the business. The cypress brush in the area of the fire was charred, and just beyond it, near the tent, a few belongings were on the ground, including a rolled up blanket and a couple of plastic bags.
The lead agency investigating the case has not been determined, the sheriff’s spokesperson said: that will depend on whether the death is ruled malicious or accidental.
The north end of Cypress Point Parkway was from time to time the scene of brush fires before it developed, most notably in 2012, when a fire that was ostensibly “controlled” burned some 5 acres.