Bradenton duplex fire leaves two families homeless

MANATEE -- Two families were left homeless when a laundry room fire engulfed their duplex in the 4000 block of Ninth Street East Monday.

No one was injured in the blaze, which took 12 Southern Manatee Fire Rescue firefighters a total of seven minutes to get under control, said Southern Manatee Battalion Chief Rick Blanco.

Juanita King, who has three bedrooms on one side of the duplex, was doing her laundry when, at 12:53 p.m. Monday, she said she heard her clothes dryer make a “popping” sound. Soon, she began to smell smoke.

“My clothes were on fire,” King said.

Vanessa Walker, who owns the duplex and has four bedrooms and two bathrooms in the other half, also smelled the smoke, alerted everyone with her and ran out.

“I’m still shaking,” said Walker. Five children and two adults were home at the time.

Hearing shouts that the dryer was on fire, Daniel Martinez, the next door neighbor, volunteered his water hose. But it was too late.

“The fire suddenly went crazy,” Martinez said.

“Half the house was engulfed in flames when we arrived,” said Blanco, who estimated fire and smoke damage at $50,000.

The American Red Cross was due to visit the families on Monday afternoon, Blanco said.

“The house is not habitable at this time,” Blanco added.

King said she can’t understand how her clothes would catch fire.

Blanco said he never has actually seen clothes catch fire in a dryer and wasn’t ready to attribute the fire to the dryer.

“It was close to the laundry room,” Blanco said. “The back of the house has extensive damage. As far as the dryer catching fire, that’s something I am not sure about. We haven’t investigated fully so we will find out.”

Blanco said he didn’t consider the fire suspicious.

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