Woman loses home to fire

ENGLEWOOD -- Annette Hallman lost her residence in what she called paradise Monday morning, when a flash fire gutted her mobile home on Bayo Street in the Gulf to Bay Cooperative on Manasota Key.

After the blaze had been extinguished, Hallman rested on a lawn chair a few feet from her home, with neighbors comforting her. Widowed 10 years ago and a long-term resident of Gulf to Bay, she was pale and shaken, but appeared to be otherwise unhurt, although she is taking medications for several ailments.

"I don't know what happened," said Hallman. "I was in the bedroom when I heard crackling sounds. When I came out to look, I saw black smoke, turned out the door and called a neighbor to call 911 for me. I have a portable phone, but the flames were already a couple of feet high. I don't think the fire was from my Christmas decorations, which I had turned off. I got out all right, but I'm feeling a little shaky now."

Fire officials commended park residents, whose quick thinking and action "knocked down" about 90 percent of the fire and probably saved adjacent homes before officials arrived.

Wes Golkowski, Bob King, Jack Kintz, Jim Neff and Greg Wheeler hooked together garden hoses, attached them to water mains and sent water streams into Hallman's trailer through windows which had blown out from the heat of the fire.

Three fire units, a command vehicle and a rescue unit from Charlotte County responded to the 10:29 a.m. call; there were nine firefighters at the scene.

"We got here, mopped up and checked the safety of the structure," said firefighter Pio Kimberlin.

Lt. Kirby Durham was in charge of the local investigation. A state fire marshal was also en route to the scene late Monday morning.

Hallman wasn't allowed to go inside her trailer after the fire was completely extinguished, but Lt. Durham retrieved a small package of personal items for her.

"We always send three engines to a structure fire, along with a command car and anything else we might need," said Lt. Durham. "The neighbors did a great job of putting out the fire before we got here. There was a lot of heat and smoke damage throughout the unit, and it's pretty well gutted out inside. The state fire marshal investigates all fires and will come up with a cause later.

Durham also suggested the following fire safety tips for this time of year:

"If you have a live tree, make sure the wiring is good wiring. Make sure it's not close to a space heater. In this cold weather, we use space heaters a lot. If you use a kerosene space heater, make sure it's well-ventilated. Keep fire awareness and fire safety in mind."

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Staff Writer