USA — Police are trying to determine the cause of a grass fire that left a homeless woman badly burned Tuesday night.
According to Miami-Dade Police, 42-year-old Linda Burwick was at a grassy area near a busway off U.S. 1 and Southwest 214th Street, in the Goulds neighborhood, Tuesday night when it caught fire sometime between 9 and 9:30 p.m.
“Yeah, I saw that as [I was] across from there,” said a male witness. “That’s where the fire started.” The witness said he saw Burwick as her body caught on fire. “She started screaming and hollering and going, ‘I need help,'” he said.
According to the witness, Burwick tried to find something to extinguish the flames herself, but the wind may have helped fan the flames. “She was out there trying to put the fire out herself, and it got too rough,” he said.
Burwick was taken into surgery at Kendall Regional Medical Center for treatment of third-degree burns, Wednesday afternoon. Doctors said she will likely remain there for days or weeks.
Police announced they are investigating this incident as a possible case of arson. Though they have deemed the fire suspicious, authorities do not have enough information to name a suspect, or to confirm the blaze is arson.
The contents of Burwick’s camp, including clothes, a boat and an overturned shopping cart, were burned black. “I pass this [area] every other day, and when I came this morning, I knew something was burning,” said Monique Johnson, a nearby resident who knows the victim. “That patch was burned, and the boat.”
Johnson confirmed Burwick was a well-known homeless person in the neighborhood and everyone knew her. “She was always walking with a McDonald’s cup, right there by the busway, asking people for money,” she said. “She never bothered nobody, she always said thank you when you gave her money, she just was a sweet person.”
Someone who lived in a house nearby the scene saw the fire ignite and said it is possible that this woman was smoking a cigarette or something of the sort. This person also said Burwick made a home of the area. She could have also been setting a fire to cook food for herself. Any ember floating into the tall grass could have ignited the fire that possibly left her burned.
Investigators were at the scene for several hours to try and figure out what happened. Burnt and very dry grass remained in the area Wednesday afternoon. The investigation continues.