Family loses everything in blaze

by Brad Buck
The Palatka Daily News



INTERLACHEN - A family lost everything in a mobile home fire early Monday morning, Putnam County Fire Marshal Joe Guidry said.
No one was injured, but fire officials said a man, his girlfriend, her 9-year-old daughter and his roommate got out with only the clothes on their backs.
Volunteers from the Interlachen Lakes Estates, Interlachen, Hollister and Francis volunteer fire departments responded to the blaze, which began at 4:19 a.m., Guidry said.
The fire, at 102 Howard Ave., was put out by about 8 a.m., but not before the family lost their home and all their belongings including Christmas gifts, fire officials said. The family had no insurance, Guidry said. He estimated the damage at about $45,000 to the three-bedroom, two-bathroom, double-wide mobile home and about $20,000 to its contents.
Rodger Clifton, 36, said his girlfriend is visiting for the holidays and was going to move in permanently. He said his 3-year-old daughter is in New York City visiting her mother. Everyone got out of the mobile home safely, fire investigators said.
"No one was injured," Guidry said. "They got out just in time. They got out with what they had on their back."
Clifton credited his roommate, Michael Carter, with getting everyone out alive.
"My roommate woke up ... and saw all the smoke in the house," Clifton said. "If it weren't for him, we would not be here today."
The fire was started unintentionally, Guidry said.
"We're looking at some possible bad wiring, possibly to some Christmas lights," he said.
Guidry said fire officials are particularly frustrated with the Red Cross chapter in St. Augustine.
"We paged the Red Cross four times and got no response," he said. "This has happened several times before, where it would be three or four hours before they would show up, if they showed up at all."
Red Cross officials could not be reached for comment. But Clifton said late Monday the Red Cross contacted him and started making arrangements for recovery with him.
People who want to help the Cliftons can call Joe Berry, chief of the Interlachen Lakes Estates Volunteer Fire Department, at 684-2890.
"We're going to try to get things going for the kids and the adults," including furniture and clothing, Guidry said.