ZEPHYRHILLS — While her husband, Floyd, was at the convenience store Wednesday evening, authorities say, Patricia Valead lit a cigarette. She was alone in their mobile home. She was on an oxygen tank.
Crystal Lakes is a tidy neighborhood where retirees in golf carts wave at strangers or stop one another on the street to say hello. It's a close-knit community.
Floyd Valead was at a friend's house — he had stopped by on his way home — about 7:30 p.m. when someone told him his house was on fire. He ran to 4728 Red Cardinal Court to find his home full of smoke, Pasco County Fire Rescue officials said.
The 71-year-old retiree ran inside and carried out his 69-year-old wife, Pasco County Fire Marshal Donald Campbell said. Patricia Valead was taken to Florida Hospital Zephyrhills in critical condition. She died Thursday morning.
Floyd Valead was treated for nonlife-threatening injuries and released from the hospital. He declined Thursday to talk to the Times.
Campbell said the open flame from the cigarette hit the oxygen, triggering a small flash fire. The fire traveled through the house through the plastic tubing that carried Patricia Valead's oxygen, which caused lots of smoke. The fire itself was about the size of a small file cabinet, and firefighters extinguished the flames within 12 minutes, Campbell said.
Red Cardinal Court was quiet Thursday afternoon. A slight breeze swayed through two palm trees in front of the Valead home. Smiling frog figurines sat at the front corner. The outside of the home showed no sign of the previous night's fire, aside from a broken window, glass shards on the concrete driveway and black soot shading the top of the side door.
Glen Hanson, 64, lives down the street from the Valeads. He said "they were a nice couple" and recalled how Floyd Valead would pressure wash houses and do other work in the neighborhood "just to help people."
The fire was unfortunate, Campbell said, though not uncommon. Similar cases happen once or twice a year in Pasco County.
Anyone on oxygen or around someone on oxygen shouldn't smoke, Campbell said.