HOPEWELL, VA (WWBT) - A Hopewell man and four dogs are dead following a late-night fire Thursday.
Hopewell Fire Chief Donny Hunter said crews responded around 10:16 p.m. Thursday to the report of a house fire in the 200 block of South 9th Avenue.
On the way to the scene crews were advised there was a man and several dogs inside.
"Units arrived on scene in four minutes and found heavy fire conditions coming from the front door and several windows," Hunter said.
Neighbors recalled hearing a loud popping sound when the fire started. Some described it as a "boom".
"Like a pow!" said neighbor Tyrone Berry. "I thought someone was shooting."
Berry said he stayed inside because he wasn't sure what was going on.
Fire crews managed to find the man quickly once they entered the home, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
The combination of an oxygen tank and smoking is what's believed to have caused the deadly fire, Hunter said.
One man who lives nearby said the victim was a veteran in his late 60s, early 70s.
"[The family is] going to need a lot of prayer and a lot of support," said family friend Sara Rideout.
Rideout knew the victim for more than 10 years.
"He was like a grandpa to me," she said. "If I had something [going on] he would be there."
According to Rideout, the victim had health issues which affected his breathing.
"He did smoke, but I believe he was trying to quit, but because of all the stress with his health it was hard for him," Rideout said.
Neighbors said the victim wasn't able to walk, which is why a ramp can be seen in front of the home along with a wheelchair carrier attached to a car in the driveway.
Rideout said the victim's wife was not home at the time of the incident.
"She was at work at the time he died and this happened," she added. "[She's] not good. She's falling apart."
Hopewell Animal Control responded to assist with the removal of the deceased dogs in the home.
Prince George Fire and EMS also responded to the call and Fort Lee Fire assisted with other calls while this situation unfolded.
"It was an all around team effort that gave every possible chance for a better outcome that unfortunately didn't turnout that way," Hunter said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family that suffered the loss."
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