Herald Tribune

Candles likely sparked fires One fire destroyed a lanai while the other caused $15,000 damage to a mobile home.


ENGLEWOOD -- Two house fires that occurred in the past week were probably sparked by decorative candles, according to the state fire marshal's office.

On Friday morning, a fire consumed the lanai of a Gulf Cove house and filled the one-story house with smoke. The home's owner, Lois London, 77, and her two dogs were unhurt, but the fire caused an estimated $35,000 worth of damage.

Fire struck a mobile home on Manasota Key on Monday morning, causing about $15,000 worth of damage, said Adam Rivero, an investigator for the state fire marshal. He said the home's owner, Annette Hallman, 64, had no insurance.

Neither homeowner could be reached for comment.

Rivero said his office has ruled both fires accidental.

"This time of year we have a lot of seasonal candles and a lot of people decorate with them," Rivero said. "It all comes down to positioning where the candles are. People let them burn down, or put them on or next to bills or envelopes, or forget about them."

Rivero said there was a chance the Gulf Cove fire was started by cigarettes and that the Manasota Key fire might have been the result of an electrical malfunction in a stereo.

Rivero said London routinely smoked in the lanai at her home, 6400 block Coniston St.

"We believe she was in back and had been smoking," Rivero said. But he said he found a circular, single-wick candle, about 6 inches in diameter, on a table on the lanai. He said a window near where London usually sits while she smokes was open, and that a breeze could have caused the window's drapes to catch fire from the candle.

At the Manasota Key fire, 200 block Bayo St., a candle had been placed on top of a stereo between two speakers, Rivero said. The stereo was destroyed.

That fire was reported at 10:29 a.m. Monday. Hallman's neighbors put it out with garden hoses before firefighters arrived, Rivero said.

Most of Hallman's possessions are salvageable, but were covered in soot, Rivero said. He said the house is uninhabitable because of smoke damage.