Fire spares family
By Cristy Loftis

Despite losing almost everything to flames and smoke, Linda Verderame feels blessed.

Her Inverness home caught fire about two weeks ago, after her son's car exploded and burned in her driveway.

"I am so thankful that my daughter-in-law and grandson were not in that car," Verderame said.

Daughter-in-law Amanda Messer, who is six months pregnant, took along her 1-year-old son, Justin Messer Jr., in the 2001 Ford Explorer to Verderame's house for a visit. The car had been parked in the driveway for more than two and a half hours when they heard an explosion outside the house.

Verderame's 2000 Ford Expedition was parked next to Messer's and caught fire along with the garage.

The fire spread to the roof and smoke completely filled the house.

"It was like a nightmare something out of a movie," Verderame said.

While the three safely escaped the house, the family lost between 80 and 90 percent of what was inside.

"She even had clothes for the new baby coming," Verderame's husband Aldo said.

They've lived in the house 13 years. Verderame works as a secretary for the Citrus County School Board. Her husband was once owner of Al's Restaurant in Inverness, and was recently hired as a culinary teacher for Crystal River High School.

The house Verderame once kept neat and clean looks as if she hadn't cleaned the carpet since she moved in. The intense smoke damaged most of her clothes, furniture, linens and everything else smoke is able to permeate.

"Little by little, we'll rebuild," Verderame said. "We have a really strong faith in God."

She and her family have spent the past two weeks working with her insurance company compiling a detailed inventory of everything in the house.

The Florida State Fire Marshal's office has determined the fire was not arson. However, an investigator with the insurance company is assessing what happened that caused the car fire.

Verderame said she received a letter a few weeks before the fire from Ford regarding a recalled part in her 2000 Explorer. However, her son didn't receive one for his 2001 model.

Verderame expects the remedial construction for the roof, drywall, floors, cabinets and ceilings to last from six months to a year.

"If people could just continue praying for us," Verderame said.

So far, she said her church and work family have been phenomenal in lending support to her family.

Regardless of the material loss, Verderame is glad her family is safe.

"People have hobbies," Verderame said. "My hobby is my family."