Candle blaze leaves family homeless
Published: Oct 4, 2003

BROOKSVILLE - An emptiness touched Garry Fisher's pale eyes as he ripped sections of vinyl siding from what's left of a wall and tossed it into a mangled pile.
The emptiness exists at the exact spot where Fisher's home used to be.
On Sept. 28, Fisher's doublewide trailer, located at 12019 Timber Lane, caught on fire. Within a half hour, Fisher had lost nearly every material item he and his family had accumulated over 20 years.
No one was hurt in the blaze, but all the amenities of a normal life - kitchen and appliances, living room and entertainment center, bedrooms and dressers - were reduced to ash.
The damage is estimated at $50,000, Fisher, 51, said, and it was all caused by a candle you can buy at a grocery store for less than $3.
Fisher said that his wife, Terrie, 46, was the only one home when the fire started last Sunday. She had lit a scented candle, put it on their coffee table, and went outside to do some chores.
When Terrie went back inside, the couch was on fire.
"We had this wooden lamp on the coffee table," Garry Fisher said. "And the weave shade is very thin. The candle was put beneath it. Maybe the heat from the candle ignited the shade."
Fisher said that his wife tried to put the fire out with a wet blanket, but failed. The blaze was spreading. Terrie made it out the back door, ran to her mother's house down the street, and called 911. But by the time the fire trucks arrived, it was too late to save the Fisher's home.
"Ninety percent of us light a candle and don't think about it," said Mark Sommer, the Fishers' nephew. "They had everything. Within 30 minutes, they lost everything."
Garry Fisher was at the remains of his trailer yesterday, attempting to salvage what he can, arranging what possessions he has left into piles.
They're homeless now, Fisher said, and he and Terrie are staying with her mother. Their 14-year-old daughter, Tara, has been taken in by other relatives in Brooksville.
Garry Fisher was wearing a pair of brown jeans ("The only pair of long pants I have left," he said), a torn T-shirt, and a pair of shoes he bought at Goodwill for $4.
They have nothing more than the clothes on their backs, Mark Sommer said. Neighbors, family members, and Somebody Cares of Hernando County have helped the Fishers by providing them with articles of clothing and monetary donations, Sommer added.
And yesterday, friends and family were at the charred, gutted trailer, shoveling debris, tearing down walls, and offering their support for the Fisher family.
"I feel shock and sympathy," said Eric Welshans, the pastor of Covenant Church of God of Floral City. Welshans and members of his church were at the Fisher's Saturday helping the family with the clean-up efforts.
"I lost a house to a fire myself," Welshans added. "You just can't describe the sense of loss."
In Welshans' hands were photographs of Fisher's daughter Tara, and son, Garry Jr. The fire had hardly touched the photos. The pastor handed them to Garry Fisher, who laid them carefully on a small stack of other photographs retrieved from the debris.
"We were remodeling the trailer," Fisher said. "I've lived in trailers all my life, and we were trying to make the inside look like a house."
New windows and doors had been installed. The kitchen was completely revamped. And the vinyl siding was less than a year old.
Melted into macabre, unearthly shapes, the vinyl siding now laid at Fisher's feet. So did the burned reminders of other things: daughter Tara's copy of a Britney Spears VHS tape, half-consumed by the blaze; a basketball, seared ash-white; a swatch of fabric, perhaps from a summer dress, or a blouse, scorched around the edges.
And it's curious what survived, everyday items taken usually taken for granted but standing out amidst the blackened rubble: a white bottle of hand lotion; a compact disc, its surface slicker than mercury; a hair clip, colored a cold deep blue.
From the stack of photographs, Fisher retrieved his family's portrait. Watermarked and a bit charred, it survived the fire, just like the Fishers did.
"We're gonna move on," Fisher said, determination in his voice. "There's one thing we have, and that's our lives. You can't replace that."
Donation to the Fisher family can be made through their niece, Spring Sommer at 544-0833.