Authorities termed suspicious a fire that engulfed a single-family house in the Mondex this morning, and brought in arson dogs to sniff for evidence of fuel or accelerants used in the blaze.
No one was hurt at the house in the 2200 block on Elder Street in the Mondex, also known as Daytona North, though the house has been occupied. The 1,100-square foot house was demolished but for a children’s play area flanking it, and two sheds that were a distance from the house itself. The house was last sold in March and was valued at $62,000.
“When we got there, there was heavy fire on the front corner and it was already flames through the roof and coming out of just about every window,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said. “So the guys did what they do and they started putting it out. We found out there’s nobody home, there were no animals, and all of our guys, there were no injuries.”
Suspicions rose quickly.
“We consider it suspicious because there was somebody at the house one hour before the fire started that wasn’t supposed to be there,” Petito said. “I heard there was a man and a woman who lived there and the man asked the woman to leave last night. I don’t know that both of them were kicked out. When it comes down to those types of issues, we try to stay out of that because it’s more of a law enforcement issue. That’s why the state fire marshal, he’s actually a law enforcement officer.”
Both state and fire marshals responded, the state fire marshal for two reasons, Petito said. Number one, we consider it suspicious, number two, the amount of damage that happened to the house so quickly. The initial calls that were received from 911 was that there was heavy fire showing already. The first officer on scene pulled up and said the house was fully engulfed. We get there, we see heavy fire throughout the whole house. From the time we get notified to the time we get on scene is less than five minutes. That’s a short amount of time for a fire to progress. Normal fire, if it was a bedroom fire, if we got there in five minutes. We’d be able to contain it to that bedroom.”
Petito was not aware of the outcome of today’s investigation, which could take up to a week to reach conclusions. “We don’t do that type of investigation. The state fire marshal brings in their arson dogs and they take samples and send them to labs to find out if there’s any type of fuel or specimens like that,” he said, noting that the dogs were brought in for this case. Arson dogs work the same way as drug dogs do. “You could put a rubble pile together and they can sniff out the different types of fuels,” Petito said.
The house in mid-afternoon was a hulk of black cinders, molten vinyl, collapsed woodwork and ash, with the contrast of children’s toys’ primary colors, a mini toboggan, a castle and two children’s bikes in the grass by the side of the house, unscathed. Some clothes and towels left to dry were still draped over a railing. Inside what was left of the burnt house,a green bouncy chair sat on a dresser of sorts, partially burnt and covered in soot.
The fire chief said children had likely been living at the house. “We can only assume that because there was one room filled with baby toys or kids’ toys and there was a little playground out on the side. All indications are that there were children living there,” he said.
The fire required a large response. Engine 71 from the Mondex, Engine 92 from the airport, Engine 16 from Old Dixie Highway, Engine 25 from Palm Coast, and Rescue 92 responded, as did a battalion chief, the county and state fire marshals, and the fire chief.