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Fire destroys Palma Sola Shores home

MANATEE -- Firefighters with West Manatee Fire Rescue thought they had completely doused a fire that had totally destroyed a Palma Sola Shores double-wide mobile home at 8:45 a.m. Thursday.

But smouldering embers under the floor of the unit rekindled and firefighters had to return to the same home exactly 12 hours later to again douse flames, said Capt. Tom Sousa of West Manatee Fire Rescue.

The owners of the home, who were not identified by fire department officials, got out safely Thursday morning and had taken their belongings and were not around for the second fire, Sousa said.

“We had told them in the morning that their home was uninhabitable,” said Sousa, who estimated the loss at $50,000. “It was a total loss even before the evening fire.”

There was one injury connected with the blaze, Sousa said.

The resident who lived just west of the burned unit suffered smoke inhalation and had to be hospitalized, Sousa said.

The home to the east sustained damage to its siding, Sousa added.

Neighbors in the quiet and upscale mobile home park, which runs from 75th Street West to Palma Sola Bay, stood behind a fence and watched firefighters tackle the blaze Thursday night.

“I heard the A/C exploded,” said Lyle Swihart, who lives in the park with his wife, LaDonna. “The owner wasn’t home. He had gone to the gym. He came home to find his home burned.

“It’s junk now,” Swihart added. “It will have to be bulldozed.”

Palma Sola Shores has 101 units and its residents, who are part of a condo association, own their land, Swihart said.

Residents pay $155 per month and that covers water, sewer, garbage pickup and even a heated pool, Swihart said.

The fire is a cautionary tale for every resident, even those with brick and mortar, who must switch their home heating system from A/C to heat this time of year, Sousa said.

“What happened here is that the heating element failed and sent fire throughout all the air ducts,” Sousa said. “When people turn on their heat for the first time in the season there is an accumulation of dust from the A/C in the coils. Usually, it just burns off. In this case, it didn’t. That’s why the A/C unit needs to be serviced when you switch from cold to heat.”

When firefighters determined that the first blaze was electrical and was working its way under the floor, they cut holes in the floor to attack it, Sousa said.

“We spent two hours and finally saw no signs of fire,” Sousa said. “We let the residents back in to get their belongings and told them it was a total loss. But some smoldering embers under the floor rekindled.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.

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