City will clear The Jungle, Mayor says after tent fire victim succumbs to severe burn injuries

December 12, 2013

The 53-year-old man who suffered serious burns in a tent fire on Wednesday afternoon at "The Jungle" has died of his injuries, police say. The previously unidentified man has now been identified as Richard Sherman.

Ithaca firefighters responded to a 911 call that a tent at the Jungle was on fire, and located a resident who had suffered burns. The victim was being aided by an employee of Cayuga Lumber who had seen the fire and went to investigate. The Cayuga Lumber employee helped extinguish the flames on the victim's clothing with snow until emergency responders arrived.

Mr. Sherman was transported to a regional burn center in critical condition last night, after initial treatment at Cayuga Medical Center. He had not been identified yesterday while police investigated the cause of the fire. IPD says no foul play is suspected at this time.

The Jungle is an ad hoc homeless community in the largely industrial area between Wegmans and Route 79 where it passes over the Cayuga Lake Inlet. The small tent city in Ithaca's West End is occupied year-round by several dozen residents who prefer to remain there even when offered other options, and has existed for around sixty years. Residents often use portable, gas-powered heaters in their tents during cold weather.

Mayor Svante Myrick tells 14850 Today, "Allowing people to live outdoors in December without access to even basic services is not compassion -- it's codependence."

The Mayor said in a statement Thursday evening, "It is my hope that this will serve as a clarion call to our community. It's time that we work with human service agencies, the community of faith, and private individuals to clear the Jungle and keep it clear."

"We will not allow people to stay," the Mayor says. In the past, the CIty of Ithaca has acceded to the wishes of Jungle residents who declined offers of shelter. "We cannot service those who live there with addiction services, mental health services, or police and fire protection" Mayor Myrick says. "I will do everything in my power to steer any current inhabitants to healthier existing alternatives."

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