Dozens of residents and friends clustered Sunday afternoon around the charred remnants of an Immokalee trailer, staring in disbelief at the home that once housed 10 of their neighbors.
As shocked as they were to hear the news — four dead and the rest hospitalized — residents were less surprised by the probable cause: arson.
Cleveland Blocker owns Cleve’s Trailer Park, where the fire at 713 Second Ave., lot 18, erupted at about 2 a.m. Sunday.
Blocker’s daughter, Julie Frost, said Sunday’s tragedy was not the first sign of danger at the home. Frost said, and other neighbors confirmed, someone tried and failed to set the home on fire a week or two ago.
“Of course, we’re always saddened by the loss of life,” Frost said. “Hopefully the people out here will give whatever information they have to catch whoever is responsible for this.”
Late Sunday afternoon, the names of the deceased and injured had not been released. Collier County Sheriff’s Office officials said they were still trying to reach the victims’ families.
Collier sheriff’s detectives and the State Fire Marshal’s office called the fire arson, but declined to release additional details, sheriff’s spokeswoman Kristin Adams said.
Investigators at the scene posted a sign on the trailer, offering a cash reward to anyone with information about the crime.
Neighbors said at least three children lived in the home.
One neighbor, Francisco Pedro Nicholas, said he heard commotion in the trailer park at about 2 a.m. Pedro Nicholas said he heard people inside the burning trailer calling for help, but because the doors were on fire, he and his friends were unable to assist.
Deputies also said they tried to reach the victims, but found it difficult to get inside the burning trailer.
“I just feel really bad for the people who were burned,” Pedro Nicholas said through a translator. “I feel really bad that there are people out here doing these bad things.”
Immokalee resident Antonio Jimenez said he came to the trailer park Sunday morning to get information about his friend who lived in the burned-out home. As of Sunday afternoon, Jimenez had yet to receive word on his friend’s condition.
“I’m trying to look for him, because I just can’t find anything out,” Jimenez said through a translator. “I just want to know what’s happened to my friend.”
The heat from the fire damaged a neighboring trailer and warped the plastic fronts of two nearby vending machines.
The roof of the trailer was caved in, and hollowed; charred rooms were all that remained.
Four victims died inside the trailer. Three residents were transported to Lee Memorial Hospital, and three others were sent to NCH Downtown Naples Hospital for treatment of their injuries.
Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 774-4434, or the Crime TIPS Hotline, at 775-8411.