SHADY HILLS — Word got to her that her mobile home was on fire and she floored the pickup, skidding and bouncing on the sugar sand road that led home. She had four dogs, a cat and a rat named Benny in her house. She drove past the fire trucks and slammed the brakes and ran out, kicked off her shoes and threw down her cigarettes and lighter and screamed. The house was black. Nothing inside could have survived. Her wailing echoed in the woods.
"Noooo," she sobbed. "My babies are dead. They're dead."
She sat and rocked and said their names. "Dolly. Emma. Lizzie. Poor Elizabeth," she cried.
Those were the dogs. The fourth, an old girl named Misty, might have escaped. Her body had not been found. Handy the cat was dead. And Benny.
"My Benny boy," she wept. "He's a rat but I love him."
The fire started about 2:30 p.m. Monday at the mobile home at 16314 Breakwater Lane, in rural north-central Pasco. At least half a dozen adults and children lived in that house, which had no electricity. Anything electrical was plugged into three extension cords running to a nearby mobile home on the same property. Most of the residents lived in both houses, though the pets stayed in the one that burned. No people were inside the mobile home when it caught fire.
Siphoning electrical current is "very dangerous," said Joe Valente, an investigator and deputy with Pasco Fire Rescue. "And this is the end result of that."
He said the cause of the fire was accidental and electrical. He said a fire like this could go from sparks to fully involved "in seconds." The fire was hotter than 1,200 degrees, he said, the point at which aluminum will melt.
Shawn Wayand, a neighbor, saw the flames and ran over to help, but it was too hot. He heard the dogs whimpering. "I couldn't do anything," he said.
The woman who owns the pets didn't want to give her name. She was hysterical. "I just want to die," she said. "I don't want to be here without them."
She got back in her truck, her face red, and tried to calm herself. She clamped her hands over her mouth and tried to breathe slowly, in, out. She couldn't and began gasping again. "I can't. I can't. I can't," she moaned. She said their names over and over.
"Oh my God my babies are dead," she said. "I've lost the only things that matter to me."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.