'Every single thing we own is gone:' East Naples apartment fire claims homes, cats

— When Jerry Lexow went to bed on Sunday night, he was fighting off a cold that forced him to call in sick to work.

When dawn broke on Monday morning, the 30-year-old East Naples man had lost his home, nearly all of his possession and three cats to an early morning fire that torched a one-story apartment building.

Lexow was one of eight residents, including his girlfriend, who were displaced by the fire at a four-unit apartment building at 2463 Washington Avenue on Monday morning.

Firefighters and Collier County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the call at 12:06 a.m., said Greg Speers, a spokesman for the East Naples Fire Control and Rescue District.

Though no people were injured in the fire, Speers said, the whole building was likely a total loss.

Initial reports suggest that the fire was accidental, he said, though the cause is still under investigation.

As Lexow remembers, his first warning of the fire was the smell of burning plastic he caught while was trying to get to sleep.

Soon the smoke was filling the room, and Lexow evacuated with his girlfriend, Jennifer Brandt.

He said when Brandt opened the door, “smoke came out of the ceiling like the wrath of god.”

Lexow reports banging on his neighbors door to notify them of the fire. Once everyone was out, he said, he began running back into his own apartment to save his cats while wearing nothing but a pair of basketball shorts.

He rescued four before the heat and smoke became too intense, he said. A fifth escape through a door or window, and a sixth latched onto firefighter who entered the apartment during the fire.

The other three died in the apartment.

After the fire was put out, the Collier chapter of the Red Cross provided temporary shelter for residents who lost their homes to the fire.

Additionally, Lexow said, they offered help with buying clothes and food for a week.

He said that he’s not sure what to do after that.

“Every single thing we own is gone,” he said.

In addition to East Naples firefighters, personnel from the North Naples Fire Control and Rescue District and the Collier Sheriff’s Office also responded to the call.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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