BRADENTON -- As soon as Lurleen Briggs drove close enough to catch a glimpse of the house in the 3000 block of 39th Avenue West in Bradenton, she pushed her head back, slamming it on her silver car’s headrest.
After she parked and got out of the car, she slowly walked up to the house she knew well.
She gasped. Her eyes welled up with tears.
“Oh my God,” Briggs, 42, said, pacing outside the light blue house.
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At 5:47 a.m. Friday, Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue and Manatee County Emergency Medical Services arrived at the property and found fire and heavy smoke coming from the back of the house and all the eaves, according to a fire department news release. It took four engines approximately 40 minutes to put out the fire, the release said.
“Everything is gone,” said Briggs, sister of one of the homeowners.
Briggs said her sister, Sue Matascik and her husband, Greg Matascik, had lived in the house 10-15 years. No one was injured.
Greg Matascik was in the house at the time of the fire, neighbors said, but was able to get out before the fire spread. He was taken to Briggs’ parents’ home, Briggs said.
Sue Matascik was in Jacksonville for business, her sister said.
“She is going to be incredibly upset,” she said. “The house was her showplace.”
Pieces of charred wood lay scattered around the house on Friday morning. The smell of smoke lingered.
A large “X,” formed with yellow tape that read “FIRE LINE DO NOT CROSS” barred access to the back of the house. Visible through the side of the property were burned, ash-covered cabinets, parts of a bicycle and other household items.
Blackened, broken and melted doors and windows showed the intensity of the fire. “You could feel the heat coming from the house,” said a neighbor who lives across the street and asked to be identified only as Leroy Jr.
He said he called 911 right after he peeked through his window and saw the flames. “It looked as if the sun was coming out from behind the house,” Leroy said. He was awakened by the sound of loud popping and then a louder explosion, he said.
Leroy said Greg Matascik told him he had been cleaning his bike with gas shortly before the fire started. The fire remained under investigation Friday and a cause had not determined. The fire department estimated the damage at about $135,000.
“I’m in shock,” Brian Faasse, 25, a relative of Sue Matascik said after he walked around the house. “There’s absolutely nothing to spare.”
He said the couple, in their 50s, had invested a lot of money into remodeling the house. “It was beautiful,” he said. “And now there’s nothing. No pictures, everything that’s valuable that money can’t replace is gone.”
Dellar Romine, 77, who lives next door to the Matasciks, said she was scared the fire would spread to her house.
“The neighbors were trying to get us out, yelling for us to leave the house,” she said. “I ran out with just my nightgown, no shoes, nothing.”
Lynn Pellicone, a neighbor, said it blew her mind how a fire could “change a family’s life in a split second.” Pellicone gazed at the rubble in the back of the house. “Now what will that family do?” she asked.
Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024. Follow on Twitter @MiriamValverde.