Robert Detherow has known his share of challenges and then some. The 49-year-old former Marine, National Guard Reservist, MP and retired cop served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, earning the Navy Achievement medal, then served in deployment after deployment in Afghanistan, four in all, two years in Haiti, and on an anti-terrorism task force in Oklahoma before moving to Palm Coast several years ago.
But “this,” Detherow said, looking at the charred remains of his garage and portions of the house he’s lived in for the past three and a half years with his wife and three young children, “this is not what I had on the menu for today.”
Several firefighters were still working in the garage and in the house at 38 Folcroft Lane in Palm Coast, though flames and smoke had all ceased. The garage area was a loss. The roof on that side of the house was significantly damaged, and the roof on the rest of the house had some smoke damage. A large portion of the house, perhaps just under half, had been damaged by fire and smoke. Firefighters did all they could in the rest of the house to save furniture and belongings, but crime-scene tape was being stretched as the sun was falling on what was to be the coldest night of the year, and Detherow was pretty certain the family would be spending the night in a hotel.
Detherow, who looks more like a weathered 30-something than anything approaching 49, had just taken his daughter on a ride on his Harley Davidson motorcycle (he was wearing a long-sleeved Bike Week shirt). He was parking the motorcycle in his garage when his son yelled out: “It’s on fire!”
The motorcycle was on fire. Just like that. A quick and fierce fire. “I was on it,” Detherow said, but very quickly the fire got too hot to do anything with the bike. He got off and called 911. That was just after 6 p.m. this evening.
It didn’t take long–it never does–for flames to start lapping at the ceiling and consuming everything in their way in the garage, invading the roof structure. But firefighters were there quickly.
“We arrived to heavy flames coming out of the garage, smoke coming out of all four sizes of the structure,” the Palm Coast Fire Department’s Kyle Berryhill, who was in command at the scene, said, as firemen were wrapping up this evening. “We attacked the fire from outside, knocked it down a little bit, got inside, got a great knock-down. The guys did a great stop on the fire, and there’s a decent amount of stuff that was saved.”
Detherow and his wife were renting the 1,600-square-foot house, but only a few days ago he had spoken to the owners about buying the house, which is owned by Valeriy Tsinman and Alla Smirnova of Sharon, Mass. The stucco-walled house was built in 2004. (Detherow last made news locally in October 2014 when he saved an elderly neighbor from an attacking dog. He and his ex-wife were featured in a San Francisco Chronicle article in 2002 about the hardship of multiple deployments on families.)
The family’s Hyundai Elantra, parked in the driveway but close to the garage, had its front end melted. But the Marine flagpole to the side of the garage was unscathed. And no one was hurt, either among firefighters, Detherow’s family, the two “hangers-on” who are almost part of the family–his children’s friends who practically live there–or Practice, the family dog, who ran around the house with nervous energy the whole time.
By 7 p.m., the scene was winding down. “The fire is under investigation, the state fire marshal is en route,” Berryhill said.
The Palm Coast Fire Department’s Engine 24 was first on scene. Also responding were Engine 22 and Engine 21, and Palm Coast Battalion 21, plus Flagler County Fire Rescue’s Ladder 21 and Rescue 22. The Palm Coast Fire Police regulated traffic in the area, and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office assisted.
Ilene vitale says
So very scary, we went through the same type of fire in our home in 2013, PLEASE, PLEASE, be careful who you hire as a contractor, our contractor riped us off, stole from us, a job that should have only taken maybe 4-5 months took 11 months, it was horrible, thank god you are all ok and safe, material things can be replaced
Thankfully nobody was hurt
Thank you for your service and bravery. Motorcycles get hot! I think everyone who has been around them has burned their leg on the manifolds at one time or another. Hopefully, they had renters insurance and the owner homeowner insurance.