Authorities release name of Tampa man who died in motor home fire

Smoke wafts over a junk-strewn property on South 51st Street in Palm River Clair-Mel last week after the motor home Richard A. Scarborough was living in caught fire. Scarborough, 73, died of smoke inhalation, according to a Medical Examiner report. No foul play is suspected, but investigators said they were unable to determine the source and cause of the fire because of the condition of the property. [Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue]
Smoke wafts over a junk-strewn property on South 51st Street in Palm River Clair-Mel last week after the motor home Richard A. Scarborough was living in caught fire. Scarborough, 73, died of smoke inhalation, according to a Medical Examiner report. No foul play is suspected, but investigators said they were unable to determine the source and cause of the fire because of the condition of the property. [Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue]
Published September 10 2018
Updated September 10 2018

TAMPA — Authorities on Monday released the name of a man who died last week when a motor home and the trash and debris surrounding it caught fire in Palm River-Clair Mel.

Officials say Richard A. Scarborough, 73, shouldn’t have been living there in the first place because the property is zoned for manufacturing.

Scarborough died of smoke inhalation early Wednesday in the motor home parked at 1618 51st St S, , according to a Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s preliminary report. A spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said no foul play is suspected in the blaze.

Scarborough’s girlfriend told investigators the fire started outside of the motor home and they found nothing to contradict that, said Eric Seidel, a spokesman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. Investigators were not able to determine the cause of the fire because the property around the motor home was littered with trash, debris and several power tools plugged into extension cords, Seidel said.

"There was so much of that stuff it was impossible to tell where exactly the fire started," he said.

The three-acre parcel is zoned for manufacturing and county officials had not granted a variance to allow someone to live there, county spokesman Todd Pratt said in an email. Code enforcement officials had not been to the property prior to the fire, Pratt said.

The girlfriend, Barbara Cascio, told investigators with the Sheriff’s Office and Fire Marshal’s Office that she was sleeping by the door of the motor home when she heard a crackling noise, according to the Medical Examiner summary. She went outside to find "smoke and embers," though the report doesn’t specify what was on fire.

Cascio said she went around the motor home and knocked on the window of the bedroom where Scarborough was sleeping. Scarborough wasn’t able to climb through the bedroom window because of shelves built in the interior window frame, the report says.

According to the report, the last thing Cascio heard Scarborough say was, "The smoke is getting too bad."

Cascio went to a neighbor’s house and called 911 at 3:07 a.m. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue crews arrived 10 minutes later to find the motor home engulfed in flames and smoke. Furniture, trash and other items surrounding the motor home also were on fire.

Crews had the blaze under control in about 30 minutes. Investigators found Scarborough’s severely burned body lying on a bed frame in what was left of the motor home, the Medical Examiner report says. The remains of two of the couple’s five dogs were also found inside the motor home.

Cascio was treated at the scene for burns on her hand. She could not be reached Monday. Another relative of Scarborough’s listed in the report did not return a message.

In a brief phone interview Monday, Ron Sheets said he rented the property to Scarborough and he and Cascio had been living their for at least eight years. Sheets said he didn’t know much about either of them.

Sheets said he told Scarborough "many times" to address the junk on the property.

"He wouldn’t clean it up," he said.

Pratt, the county spokesman, said officials do not plan to cite Sheets.

"Fines and other punitive measures can be a way to ensure compliance, but in this case the living quarters that were in violation were destroyed by the fire, meaning there’s no longer a code violation," Pratt said.

The Medical Examiner’s report lists Scarborough’s employment as "mechanic/shop owner" and says records indicated he had nine children. He’d been diagnosed with several health conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic kidney disease. He had a prosthetic implant in his right leg.

Scarborough was from Arlington Va. and liked classic cars and Bob Seger, according to his Facebook page. Friends called him Dickie.

"Can’t believe this is what finally took you from us," one of his Facebook friends, Pamela Mace, typed earlier this week under a photo of him.

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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