BRADENTON -- Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a house fire believed to been started intentionally, which left two families living in a hotel.
At about 6:45 a.m. Saturday, Eddie McCary and his family were awakened by an off-duty Hillsborough firefighter because their home in the 600 block of 21st Street West was on fire. The firefighter said he was on his way to work when he saw the smoke from Manatee Avenue.
A joint investigation by the Bradenton fire marshal, Bradenton police and state fire marshal determined the cause of the fire to be arson.
"It is still under investigation," Bradenton Fire Marshal Kenneth Langston said.
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Bradenton firefighters arrived within minutes, by which time the family of four who lived in the upstairs unit had already evacuated.
The downstairs residents were at work at the time of the fire, according to McCary's fiancee Kylie Lee.
The fire was under control within about 30 minutes, Langston said.
The home has been deemed uninhabitable
The American Red Cross came to the scene to aid the families, according to Langston.
Most family belongings were destroyed by smoke damage, authorities said.
Lee, McCary, his adult son and adult nephew are now living in a Bradenton hotel as they look for a new place to live. It hasn't been easy, Lee said.
"The landlord is not being too helpful," Lee said. "It's just been a big mess."
A day before this fire, a triplex on the northeast corner of Fourth Street West and Seventh Avenue West in
Palmetto was also destroyed by a fire ruled suspicious after a joint investigation by the North River fire marshal and state fire marshal.
"It is still under investigation," North River Fire Battalion Chief Donnie Bathje said.
The two fires are not thought to be related at this time.
A family friend set up an online fund to help raise money to replace goods lost in the fire. To donate, go to: giveforward.com/fundraiser/ylt5/mccary-family-hope-fund-lost-everything-in-fire.
Anyone with information should call the Bradenton Fire Department at 941-932-9600.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.