GOLDEN GATE — A house fire in Golden Gate city on Saturday night fanned concerns among fire investigators and residents due to a string of suspicious fires in the area since early August.
However, by Sunday afternoon, officials were able to extinguish much of that fear in the most recent fire. The state fire marshal’s division reported that the cause of the fire, which destroyed a home at 4712 25th Ave. SW, Golden Gate, late Saturday, remains under investigation but is not suspicious, said Dean Anderson, battalion chief of the Golden Gate Fire Control and Rescue District .
The news brought some relief to Fernando Ode, who lived in the home.
“I was the last to leave and the first one back,” Ode said.
Ode said he took a shower and left the home at about 7 or 7:30 p.m. Saturday and when he returned sometime between 9 and 9:30 p.m., flames had engulfed the roof and were shooting skyward. Ode went to call 911 and found his cell phone battery was dead, so he drove to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office substation about a half mile away, he said.
Ode was instructed to return to the home, and, by the time he did, fire officials were battling the blaze in which no one was injured.
“The good thing is that nobody was here,” Ode said. “Unfortunately, this is what you call ‘the American Dream’ gone in two hours.”
The fact that the home was lived-in separated the fire from the others.
Four fires have been burned in vacant houses within 11⁄2 miles of each other in Golden Gate Estates in August. One of the four was on the Golden Gate Estates-Golden Gate city western border. At least three of them have already been deemed arson.
The fires were on Painted Leaf Lane, Copper Leaf Lane and on Santa Barbara Boulevard, which connects Painted Leaf Lane to Copper Leaf Lane.
Among neighbors watching firefighters battle the blaze Saturday was Hernan Sanchez.
“It’s crazy,” the 18-year-old said.
“I’m actually concerned. It’s been happening a lot this past month.”
Sanchez questioned if the fire may have been caused by an electrical problem.
He may have been right, from what officials and Ode are saying at this point.
The fire is believed to have started in the family room, officials said. Ode said an old television may have been the culprit.
Ode was staying at the home, owned and also occupied by his friends and business partners Hublar Lopez and Ismary Gonzalez. The stay was to be temporary as Ode said he was going through a divorce.
“This is what I have left, what you see,” he said standing in the driveway of the home wearing shorts and a tank top Sunday. “I’m losing everything.”
He walked to the back of the home where there was little remaining but ash and charred remains of items that were hardly recognizable. An empty bird cage hung near a now black pool, and a brightly colored child-size toy car was among the only items not turned to charcoal.
Ode pointed to a near empty space with nothing but charred wood support beams marking it as a room and said it was the newly designed nursery.
“This was a beautiful home,” he said. The husband and wife opening their home to Ode were Lopez and Gonzalez, who were expecting another child, Ode said.
Ode said he stayed with his ex-wife following the fire on Saturday night. Having lived in Collier County for 30 years, he said he has plenty of friends to offer him a place to stay when needed.
“Here comes the difficult part, getting back to work and getting back to normal,” Ode said.
Staff reporter Tracy X. Miguel contributed to this report.