HOLIDAY — They knew the little boy played with fire but they thought it was under control. Two years ago, when Tristan Folkman was 3, he lit a corner of the carpet on fire because he wanted to see a fire truck, said his mother, Danielle Folkman.
Folkman and her partner, Jessica Flanders, tried to keep lighters out of reach. Tristan's fixation on fire seemed to ebb.
"He was doing great — up until today," Folkman, 24, said Tuesday afternoon, as she stood in front of the remains of her home. The house at 3133 Darlington Road in Aloha Gardens in Holiday caught fire about 1:15 p.m. Two newborn kittens died and a third was rescued from the debris and suffered injuries, but is expected to survive.
Two adult cats and a dog were also rescued unharmed.
Fire investigator Abbie Bennewitz said it appears the fire was started in a bedroom by a child playing with a lighter.
"It appears to be an accidental fire," Bennewitz said.
The shell of the home remained intact, but smoke and fire damage inside the home was extensive, Bennewitz said. The Red Cross is assisting the family with temporary housing.
Flanders, 24, was at home with Tristan, 5, when the fire started, said Folkman, who said she was at work. Folkman said she had not yet asked Tristan what happened. She wanted things to calm down first.
Folkman said she was told by fire officials that Tristan has to be enrolled in a fire safety class.
"You're never prepared for something like this," Folkman said. "My main concern was that everybody was okay."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.