Authorities believe fire may be arson
Arson investigators are looking into a fire that broke out early Thursday morning at a home in unincorporated Clearwater.
Authorities responded to 2114 Cypress Point Drive N about 6:40 a.m., according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, and found a fire in the attached garage.
Crews treated the owner of the home, Michael Branin, 60, for smoke inhalation at the scene, the Sheriff's Office said.
A man sitting outside the charred home Thursday morning, who said he lived there but would not give his name, said the blaze started on a couch in the garage.
The cause of the fire has not been determined, and deputies are continuing to investigate.
Celebrate July Fourth without fireworks
Pinellas County authorities are reminding residents that private use of fireworks is illegal in Pinellas County.
A county news release notes: "Independence Day celebrations can be full of flare without fireworks at home. In fact, in Pinellas County the retail sale or purchase of fireworks that project into the air or explode is prohibited."
Sparklers remain legal, but parents are reminded they can be dangerous, reaching temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees. Only those over 12 years of age should handle sparklers, authorities say. Officials also have the following basic safety recommendations:
• Read all cautions and warnings.
• Use sparklers only outdoors.
• Use sparklers as intended -- do not try to alter or combine them.
• Do not mix fireworks and alcohol.
• Never pick up fireworks that may be left over after a display, as they may still be active.
Prepare for lots of work on the city's roads
Dunedin City Commission votes earlier this month will mean improved roads and crosswalk signals for several parts of the city.
In unanimous decisions, commissioners on June 20 agreed to buy rapid flashing beacon lights for Causeway Boulevard and Patricia Avenue, as well as to spend $190,450 resurfacing San Christopher Drive between County Road 1 and Pinehurst Road.
City staffers also hope rectangular flashing beacon lights — like those on Alt. U.S. 19 at Weaver Park — will ease concerns about pedestrian safety on two of Dunedin's busiest roads. The new signals cost $35,000 and will go up on Patricia Avenue south of Admiral Road, and four on Causeway Boulevard at South Paula and Woodette drives, Gary Place and Royal Stewart Arms.
The road resurfacing project won't add curbs to San Christopher Drive, which disappointed Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski. Bike lanes also are not included in the current project, though city staffers said they could be added if desired in the future.
Commissioners also approved naming an ongoing city-sponsored public education effort in honor of the longtime Dunedin volunteer, public safety committee member and retired St. Petersburg police officer who spearheaded the idea. The "Chief Don Story Public Safety Series" will feature monthly seminars on topics such as hurricane preparedness and fire prevention. Story died unexpectedly in February.
Reclaimed water still unavailable as system maintenance goes on
Pinellas County reclaimed water will continue to be unavailable on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays while the system is shut down for maintenance as well as storage recovery.
County reclaimed water customers Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski are encouraged to continue limiting their reclaimed water use to help with this resource recovery initiative.
During the past several months, storage levels of reclaimed water dropped so low that pumps could potentially be damaged. The reclaimed water system's capacity will be reevaluated as rain increases during the summer months.
The shut-down schedule will continue until storage levels recover. For more details, call customer service, (727) 464-4000 or visit pinellascounty.org/utilities.