The Avila family lives in an older wooden home in the 500 block of 31st Avenue East so they knew they had to get out of Hurricane Irma’s path when the storm was initially heading up the west coast of Florida. They left Saturday morning for South Carolina and returned to their home on Tuesday.
They were without power until Thursday afternoon. When the power in their block came back on, neighbors could be heard cheering and telling electrical crews in the area, “Thank you.”
But for the Avilas, the celebration was short lived as smoke quickly began to fill their kitchen.
“My wife got pushed back by the smoke,” said Fernando Avila. “We all just got out as quickly as possible and called 911. We didn’t know what was going on.”
Avila, his wife Ashley, their three children and two other children who were staying with them all got out safely.
“I’m still in shock,” Avila said. “We had a lot of water come into the back of the house during the last storm and I was still dealing with that. And now this. I just wanted to turn on the A/C and relax after everything we dealt with with this dang storm. I just don’t even know what to say. It’s been one thing after another.”
Avila did have words of gratitude for the 15 Southern Manatee firefighters who responded within minutes, containing the damage to the kitchen alone and preventing a potentially worse situation.
Southern Manatee Fire Rescue Battalion Fire Chief Rick Blanco said that fortunately there were no flames when firefighters arrived and his crews were able to wrap up the scene fairly quickly.
“It looks like it was contained to the oven area,” Blanco said. “I’m not yet sure what exactly happened, but we’ll continue to investigate the cause. The most important thing is that the husband, wife and children were able to evacuate the home quickly and there were no injuries.”
Residents are cautioned after a power outage to turn off all electrical devices for when power is restored, but Avila said there is no chance the oven was left on by accident.
“We don’t even cook with that one,” he said. “We use it to store pots and pans, so I don’t know what happened.”
What forced the family out of their home after days on the road and days without power when they returned will be found out, but Avila is just grateful his family and safe. The family’s children do have one pet, which is a pet turtle.
“We left the turtle with someone in Sarasota when we evacuated, so at least the turtle’s safe,” Avila said, struggling to find some humor. “So there’s that.”