HALIFAX -- It was April 17, around 9 p.m., that someone alerted North York Fire Chief Justin McGuigan that his neighbour's home was on fire.

Chief McGuigan says he responded to the property in under 45 seconds.

"I found the homeowner outside the residence, kind of leaning up against a lawn tractor," he said. "I did a quick circuit around the house just to check to see if any additional dangers were there and started lining up operations for the fire apparatus that arrived a short time later."

The man was taken to hospital by ambulance and volunteer firefighters worked on the home for several hours, but it couldn't be salvaged.

Friends, neighbours and family members of the man have all told CTV Atlantic it was the homeowner himself who allegedly started the fire.

They say he suffers from addiction and terminal cancer, as well as a mental illness that causes hallucinations. CTV Atlantic is not identifying the man due to the circumstances of this case.

They all say they thought he would be admitted to hospital, at least for the night.

But Chief McGuigan says, while he was holding the scene for the Fire Marshal, the man arrived home.

"We were pretty surprised that at about three o'clock in the morning when a taxi pulled up in front of the home and the homeowner was climbing out of the back seat of the taxi," he said. "It was very cold outside. He was very, very cold. After a few minutes he knocked on the window of the vehicle and asked if there was any way he could sit inside and get warm. We couldn’t turn him away by any stretch."

The fire chief sat with the man in his vehicle for over four hours.

His brother says they were not informed their loved one had been released from hospital, and believes had Chief McGuigan not been there, he would have died outside.

"I'm scared that he's going to die on the street, right on the street," his brother said. "They let him out, don't even call us to let us know that he's out. It's frustrating, we're at our wits end."

The man has been in and out of the Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton many times over the last several months, according to the family.

But they feel like he's falling through the cracks of the province's healthcare system.

"I just want to see him go somewhere safe, and die in dignity."

Chief McGuigan doesn't believe a single person or the hospital itself is to blame. He says the situation shows the gaps that exist in the system.

"Systems as a whole in the province of New Brunswick are not perfect, they're not perfect anywhere. We're all people, we all want to help each other. That's exactly why we're volunteer firefighters. We want to see our neighbours looked after," he said. "The folks at the ER are doing their best to try to be able to help in those situations. But it's not a perfect system. And it's just not productive to make general broad statements that point the finger at them."

On Tuesday morning, the family says the man returned to the Chalmers Hospital and was admitted.

They say right now, they can breathe, but they don't know for how long.

CTV Atlantic contacted Horizon Health Network and the Department of Health for a comment on this story, but haven't heard back.