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Arson destroys foreclosure house in Palm Harbor

PALM HARBOR — Arson caused a fire late Wednesday that destroyed a 3,000-square-foot home valued at more than $500,000, authorities say.

No one was inside when the fire occurred just after 10 p.m. The two-story home at 3624 Fisher Road, owned by Charles and Laurie Huber, had been vacant for about three months.

"There's really nothing left," Charles Huber said Thursday. "Everything went."

The house wasn't insured, he said. When told that authorities already were calling it arson, Huber said, "It must have been some kids that went in there or something. That's all I can think of."

Deputies and firefighters from several fire departments responded Wednesday night following a 911 call from a neighbor. Detectives began looking over the scene early Thursday.

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arson detectives joined the investigation as a "standard procedure," spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said.

It didn't take long for detectives to determine the blaze was set, but they did not say what evidence led them to that conclusion.

The investigation is continuing.

Charles Huber, 71, and Laurie Huber, 50, are separated.

No longer able to pay his homeowner's insurance, which cost about $15,000 a year, Charles Huber, a retiree living on Social Security, said he let it expire last fall. He said he also struggled to make his $1,400-plus mortgage payments after the separation, which is why he and his teenage daughter recently moved into a trailer park less than a mile away.

The home, valued at $551,900 by the Pinellas County property appraiser, recently went into foreclosure.

"It was going up for sale," Huber said.

Records show the house, which sits on a little more than an acre, was built in 1957. Huber had lived in it for more than a decade, he said.

Huber said he was told about the fire Thursday morning by his daughter, who learned about it from friends. Furniture, television sets and most of his daughter's clothing were inside. Huber said he removed a refrigerator from the home only a day before the fire.

"I had been taking things out piece by piece," Huber said.

Laurie Huber could not be reached for comment.

Researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kniebuhr@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156.

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How to help

Detectives ask that anyone with information about the fire call (727) 582-6200 or 1-800-873-8477.

Arson destroys foreclosure house in Palm Harbor 04/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 30, 2009 8:32pm]

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