By Peter D'Oench

PLANTATION (CBSMiami) – A fire has taken the life of a veteran photographer who was trapped inside his Plantation home. Investigators said their rescue efforts were seriously hampered by windows that were boarded up with plywood and doors that were blocked by debris.

The blaze broke out at 11:56 p.m. Saturday at the home of Wade Caldwell. Neighbors said the man, who was in his early 60s, had lived there since his childhood.

Sara Reynolds, who lives across the street from the home, took video of the fire with her phone after she and her husband got out of bed.

“We got woken up just before midnight by the dogs and we could see the house and flames,” Reynolds told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. “It was just super sad. He was the best neighbor you could ask for. He was just super helpful and kind and caring. He was the first one to greet us when we moved in here two years ago. He is going to be missed in this whole neighborhood. He was a big part of it.”

Plantation firefighters battling the blaze. (Courtesy of Sara Reynolds)

Plantation Deputy Fire Chief Joel Gordon said firefighters arrived within six minutes and found the victim trapped inside. He said police responded but were not able to get in through the windows because they were boarded up with plywood.

“They were able to get one piece off but then they were overcome by smoke,” he said. “We then went in back of the house and tried to make entry through a back door but we were not able to open that back door. We found debris piled against it and tried to go through the front door and found the same situation. All the debris caused a number of issues.”

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Gordon added, “We have had several issues of hoarding but this is the worst situation our firefighters said they had ever seen. Anytime there’s hoarding it creates unique challenges.”

Wade Caldwell (Courtesy of a Family Friend)

“It’s just tragic,” said Reynolds. “Due to preparing his home for the hurricane season he had not gotten around to removing the plywood from his windows. He was planning to do that this weekend but he was not able to do that and so what’s trapped inside his home.”

Despite his concerns, Gordon could not say if Caldwell’s life could have been saved had all the obstacles not been in the way.

“I don’t want to speculate,” he said.

He said the cause of the death will be determined by the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office and the cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal’s office.

Peter D'Oench