Fire Consumes Seminole Woods House That Belongs to a Family of Four
FlaglerLive | August 13, 2012
At 3:31 this afternoon, Gina Gustafson was away from her house on Seaman Trail East in Seminole Woods, when her young daughter, who was with her, got a call from her girlfriend. A house was on fire on their street. At first, Gustafson, who just moved to Palm Coast from Connecticut in September, thought it was her house, at 13 Seaman Trail East.
It was the house next door, Number 15, a 2,000-square foot, one-level house, valued this year at $115,000, and belonging to Jeff and Suzanne Williams, two of whose children (two sons–a teenager and a 7 year old) live at the house. No one was home when the fire started, Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito originally thought. The mother and both children were at the house, as it turned out.
It was a matter of minutes when firefighters arrived at the scene.
Brief Video of the Fire at Its Height
“We don’t know the cause,” Petito, who was at the scene, said. “When we got here the whole roof was on fire already. Engine 92 was first here, and they said they had full fire on the roof, and they called what we call a defensive tactic, it means nobody goes inside because the roof has already collapsed, and basically we get as many hose lines going as we can and try to keep the fire to a single house.”
Gustafson’s house is the only one adjacent to the Williams’s, to the east. Wooded lots extend on both sides of the pair of houses, and in back them, woods stretch along a canal. Across the street, there’s a two-level house that belongs to an electrician. None of those neighboring houses appeared to be in any danger as firefighters doused the burning structure in water from several directions, including a tower.
When the firefighters got to the scene, two children’s bicycles were still leaning against the garage door as flames charred it from inside. The bikes were moved into the grass across the street, and firefighters went to work, knocking down the garage door with a hatchet.
Some neighbors said the homeowners had a dog and two cats. All three pets were saved. Jeff Williams, who was also at the scene, taking pictures of his house with his cell phone, was understandably in no mood to answer questions. The fire chief had not yet spoken to him. Nor was the fire marshal yet at the scene, but was later seen investigating the wreckage. At 4:17 p.m., flames could still be seen leaping past the carcass of the roof even as jets of water from two water-canons poured from above. Black smoke rose in a nearly straight column above the house, the air being still, extremely muggy, and threatening of more storms.
“Whatever fire is there we try to knock it down, make sure everybody is safe while we’re doing it,” Petito said. “We’re going to continue to put water on it until the fire is totally out, until it’s not smoking anymore so we don’t get a re-kindle, and then the fire marshal will come and do an inspection, try to find out what happened.”
Petito said the area has been prone to fires started by lightning. But for residents of Seminole Woods, rain has generally meant a sigh of relief from the wildfires that coursed through the area last year, and that threatened to do so again this year, after a dry spring, until heavy rains eliminated the danger of another bad wildfire season.
Gustafson stood across the street with her daughter, watching her neighbor’s house burn and worrying about her own, a mere few feet from the flames. “A little too much excitement for me,” she said.
Flagler County Fire Rescue was in command–with Capt. Jamey Burnsed in command of the scene–assisted by the Palm Coast Fire Department, the Palm Coast Fire Police, the Flagler Beach Fire Department and the Bunnell Volunteer Fire Department. Seaman Trail East was closed this afternoon as crews remain at the scene, working.
A little after 5 p.m., when the scene was fully under control–and only smoke rose from parts of the house–Burnsed said the Palm Coast fire marshal had “a couple of theories” about the origins of the fire, but nothing solid yet. Neighbors who had spoken to one of the Williamses said a phone charger in the garage may have been an issue. As firefighters were wrapping up the scene, Gustafson and her child, along with one of the Williams children–the older son–and others, were in the garage of the house across the street, going through soaked family photo albums that had been salvaged. To preserve what they could of the pictures, they were taking them out of their cellophaned sleeves to dry them and save them from being glued together.