PALM HARBOR — Joseph Stancy, the owner of the four-story home that was destroyed by fire Tuesday evening, doesn't think the blaze was intentionally set.
But a Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arson team continued to wade through what was left of the structure Wednesday to see if the blaze was arson.
"I don't think it was," Stancy said Wednesday as he left Dry Dock Cleaning, the business he owns on Clearwater's Fort Harrison Avenue. "I don't know what happened because no one has told me anything, but I don't think it was."
Cecilia Barreda, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said the cause and origin of the fire are still being investigated and that it is standard procedure for a team of arson detectives to be on the scene.
Neighbors said Wednesday that flames gushed out the third story windows as fire quickly consumed the house at 792 Natalie Lane in Palm Harbor. The fire started about 6 p.m. According to the Pinellas County property records, the comparable sales value for the home is more than $1-million.
The house had at least eight bedrooms and six bathrooms. It had three garage doors. No one was in the corner-lot structure when it caught fire.
"I was drenched in sweat and literally begging the firemen, 'please don't let it take my house,' " said Jaime Collins, whose home is next to the one that caught fire. Collins lost part of a wood fence that just was installed.
Stancy said he lost everything in the fire and he didn't know what he was going to do next. He said he and his wife were in the process of moving out of the home when the fire occurred.
"It would have been sold within the next 30 days," Stancy said.
According to court records, Stancy and his former wife, Jennette Stancy purchased the house on Dec. 28, 2005, and owed $475,108.
Jennette Stancy said her former husband assumed all liability in divorce proceedings.
The two had been married 18 years, according court documents.
Neighbors on the street want someone to take responsibility for securing the destroyed home.
"My concern is safety," Heidi Wincek said as she stood outside the home, now surrounded with yellow crime tape, listening to vinyl siding flap in the wind. Water from a fire hose splattered down to the bottom floor.
"They can put a fence up or something. I would just hate for someone to get hurt."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.