OKEECHOBEE — Firefighters were able to save four animals Wednesday belonging to a woman whose single-wide mobile home suffered extensive damage.
According to an Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue (OCF/R) report, damage to the home was estimated at $5,000, while damages to the home’s contents was thought to be $2,500.
The state fire marshal was called to the scene at 49040 U.S. 441 S.E. around 5:21 p.m. and determined the origin of the blaze was a bedroom. Apparently, continued the report, the fire was “… started due to unattended smoking material in the room of origin.”
OCF/R Chief Ralph Franklin said firefighters, using a thermal imaging camera, located the three cats and one dog and were able to get them out of the home.
The camera, stated the chief, “… identifies the difference in temperature patterns.”
Firefighters Josh Borgstrom and Brett Bridges, along with Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and K-9 handler Matt Crawford, administered oxygen to the disoriented animals.
“After receiving care, the animals appeared to be in good shape and were returned to their owner,” stated the OCF/R chief.
The owner of the animals is Gloria Simms, who rents the mobile home.
In his report, Deputy Crawford stated Ms. Simms, 59, told him she was watching television in the living room when “… she felt an unusual amount of heat from the bedroom area.”
When she opened the bedroom door she saw it was filled with flames and smoke, continued the deputy’s report.
“She slammed the door and ran out of the residence to the neighbors, who called 9-1-1,” added the deputy.
A report by OCF/R firefighter and paramedic Lieutenant Matthew Vinson indicated Ms. Simms kept wanting to re-enter he home to find her pets.
“We had to ask her multiple times to stay back from the fire area,” he stated.
After arriving on the scene, Chief Franklin said firefighters entered the home and began an aggressive attack on the blaze. The fire was declared out 10 minutes after the firefighter’s arrival.
An estimated 250 gallons of water were used to knock down the fire. The fire report goes on to state another 400 gallons of a water/foam mixture was used.
A truck from the Okeechobee City Fire Department responded and topped off the OCF/R engine’s tank then assisted county firefighters.
The owner of the home, Eldon Williamson, was also called to the scene and disconnected power to the home.
There were no reported injuries.
The American Red Cross also responded and was helping Ms. Simms find shelter, stated Deputy Crawford.
Chief Franklin pointed out that according to the U.S. Fire Administration, smoking is the number one cause of home-fire deaths in the nation.
He went on to remind everyone “… to extinguish smoking materials in an ashtray with a wide base so it won’t tip over and start a fire.”
Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News