Daily Commercial

Blaze probe continues


06/19/03
By PETE SKIBA
Daily Commercial Staff Writer
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MASCOTTE

Firefighters who fought a trailer blaze Monday night, then searched the gutted remains, found no trace of its occupant or his pet python, officials said.

Emergency crews were cleaning up the mess at 4025 Mount Pleasant Road at about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday when Joe Ray Castle, 54, the single-wide trailer’s owner, walked up the road to the scene, a Lake County Sheriff’s Office report stated.

“He said he was in the woods, watching us search for him, because someone was out to kill him,” Sheriff’s Detective Dan Conlee said. “He hid in the woods and denied setting the fire.”

The State Fire Marshall’s Office, Bureau of Fire and Arson, is conducting an investigation assisted by the sheriff’s office.

“The trailer was about 35 percent involved when we arrived at 18:26 (6:26 p.m.),” said Mascotte Fire Department Capt. L.W. MacPhee. “A witness said there was someone in there and we attempted to go in, but the fire beat us back.”

Firefighters put the blaze under control by 9:15 p.m. and declared it out near midnight.

Before the fire was controlled, firefighters began searching through the wreckage to find a survivor or a body, MacPhee said.

“We dug through the trailer’s debris for four hours and found no remains,” MacPhee said. “There was a pole barn roof on it. We had to pull it off.”

Earlier MacPhee had asked that a helicopter search the woods around the trailer for a survivor.

“We requested it because, maybe if he was intoxicated, maybe he ran out (of the trailer) scared or disoriented,” MacPhee said.

The infrared equipment on the sheriff’s helicopter did not locate Castle.

Kimberly Albert, 33, of Clermont, dropped Castle off at his home at about 4:30 p.m., a report stated. The report added that they argued after she refused Castle’s advances and she drove off.

Albert returned to the trailer about two hours later and noticed smoke. She called dispatch from a neighbor’s, the report stated.

Firefighters pumped about 10,000 gallons of water onto the blaze to put it out. About 20 firefighters from Mascotte, Groveland and Clermont responded to the call.

There was a report that a python was kept in the trailer, but no snake body was found after the intense blaze, Conlee said.