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At vigil, loved ones mourn woman killed in South Richmond house fire

At vigil, loved ones mourn woman killed in South Richmond house fire


Family, friends and neighbors gathered Friday to remember Shene T. Dickens, who died after she was pulled by city firefighters from a burning South Richmond home.

Dickens, 46, was blind and called 911 at 1:42 a.m. Oct. 16 to report she was trapped in a second-story bedroom as smoke filled the home.

“That woman, that lady, that queen, she was good,” the youngest of Dickens’ two sons, Kato Hainesworth, told the crowd that gathered outside the home where Dickens lived in the 200 block of Plazaview Road, off East Belt Boulevard between Midlothian Turnpike and Hull Street Road.

Caution tape still surrounded the home Friday, and three of the front windows were boarded up. Smoke and soot blackened the threshold over the front door, to which someone tied a red balloon.

Antione Ford Jr., Dickens’ nephew, said he visited his aunt often, sometimes randomly dropping by just to spend time with her. He cherishes that time now.

“I could have done more,” he said. “We don’t want to be sad. We want to rejoice where she is now.”

Dickens’ sister, Jolinda Dickens, said they had lost their mother to cancer in 2018.

“That was hard, but we had each other,” Jolinda Dickens said. “We could understand her passing. This, I don’t understand.”

They were the only two siblings left in Richmond out of four, so they became “each other’s keeper,” she added.

They spoke four times the day before Shene Dickens died, her sister said. They talked about “the stories,” the soap operas they watched each day; what they were each going to cook that night; and made plans for the “pajama party” Jolinda Dickens said they had been planning for the weekend after her death.

“I never spoke to her again,” Jolinda Dickens said.

The first Richmond firefighters arrived about five minutes after the 911 call and encountered heavy fire coming from the home, where Shene Dickens and several others rented a room.

They found a man who also lived in the home already outside. He suffered smoke inhalation, but Shene Dickens was still on the phone with dispatchers and unable to escape.

“[Firefighters] immediately went into rescue mode to get the caller out of the home,” said Lt. Chris Armstrong, a spokesman for the fire department.

At 1:49 a.m., they had rescued her and began lifesaving measures. She was taken to a hospital and declared dead soon after arrival.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, Armstrong said Friday.

“I don’t sleep at night, and I won’t, until I find out what happened,” Jolinda Dickens said. “I need to know how the fire started. Why she couldn’t get out? Why, why, why?”

Editor's Note: This story was updated to reflect the correct Dickens was pulled from the house during the fire.

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Twitter: @AliRockettRTD

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