CLEARWATER — Michael E. Oboikovitz was turning his life around.
In the last year, he had become an exemplary tenant at the New Ranch Mobile Home Park, according to property manager Doris Marsh.
He put in a lot of work to fix up the modest mobile home, No. 311, where he'd been living since 2006.
But early Tuesday morning it was all undone by a ferocious fire that burned through the mobile structure, leaving behind a skeleton of a house, chock-full of charred debris.
Oboikovitz, 43, and Reba Godbey, 41, who also lived in the mobile home, were able to escape from the fire before firefighters arrived.
But they didn't escape injury.
Tuesday afternoon, Oboikovitz and Godbey were being kept in the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital. Oboikovitz was in critical condition and Godbey in serious condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.
As part of their routine investigation of fires, arson detectives from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spent time at the scene Tuesday, just south of Gulf-to-Bay and east of Belcher Road.
The investigation was still ongoing Tuesday afternoon.
According to authorities, the flames broke out at about 4:13 a.m. Marsh, the property manager, said she was told the fire began somewhere in the bedroom.
Neighbor Ronnie Davidson said he was visiting with Oboikovitz and Godbey late Monday night. He left around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, just hours before the flames broke out.
Davidson said Oboikovitz and Godbey were in good spirits that night. They talked about plans for celebrating Christmas. They talked about the upcoming transition to digital television. They even talked about putting plants in the yard to protect the home from storms.
Davidson said he and Oboikovitz were drinking beer and Godbey was drinking wine.
Everything was peaceful when Davidson went home for the night, only to be undone so disastrously a few hours later.
Court records show Oboikovitz had some drug problems in his past and is currently on probation.
"This is a couple that was coming up," Davidson said as he looked over the ruins. "This is devastating."
Staff writer Luis Perez contributed to this report. Jonathan Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4157.