Friday, December 15, 2017
Public safety

Palm Harbor mobile home park has history of fires

PALM HARBOR — His hands blackened from the ashes, Animal Kidd sifted through the charred remnants of his mobile home with a rake and a flashlight. The ceiling drooped above him, only supported by the burned wooden beams that remained.

A woman pushing a baby stroller stopped to greet Kidd.

"I'm glad you're alive," she told him.

"Yeah," he answered. "Me, too."

About 2:30 a.m. Friday, authorities received a call about a fire at Kidd's mobile home. Firefighters and deputies arrived to find the home engulfed in flames. A second fire then erupted in a nearby vacant unit but was quickly extinguished, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

The two blazes are the latest in a series of about five mobile home fires reported at Frontier Village Mobile Home Park at 30700 U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor within the past year, authorities said Friday. On March 1, another mobile home caught fire just one unit away from Kidd's home.

Sheriff's Office arson detectives, Palm Harbor Fire Rescue, and a state fire marshal determined Friday that the two latest fires are "suspicious in nature," authorities said.

Raymond Eubanks was supposed to move into the mobile home that caught fire March 1. The cause of that fire remained unclear Friday. This week, Eubanks settled into another home behind Kidd's. Early Friday morning, he was in his living room when he noticed flames on Kidd's porch.

Eubanks ran to the home and started banging on the walls. Despite the heavy smoke, he ventured inside with his shirt covering his nose and mouth and helped Kidd, 65, and his roommate, 63-year-old Marcus Devoto, out of the house.

Devoto was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. It was unclear Friday if he had been released.

"This could have been very easily first-degree murder," Kidd said. "I have nowhere to go. I have no money. I live on Social Security."

A state fire marshal arson dog was at the scene Friday morning while Sheriff's Office investigators walked through the park to talk to residents. Signs announcing cash rewards for any information on the fires were posted on street signs. A park management official said they are hiring security officers and installing cameras throughout the park, and the Sheriff's Office is increasing patrols there.

Frontier Village has a history of mobile home fires, said Palm Harbor Fire Rescue spokeswoman Liz Monforti.

"There have been a lot over the years in that particular mobile home park," she said. "It's a lower economic area. There are some empty homes in there as well. And in the past, we've had some of the empty ones catch fire."

Among the previous fires: A couple was displaced after their home caught fire in March 2003. Four months later, Chad Michael Clark, 26, died trying to escape a fire in his mobile home.

In 1999, the Sheriff's Office arrested a man accused of setting a Frontier Village mobile home ablaze, killing a pet bird inside.

On Friday morning, Eubanks helped Kidd rummage through his mobile home for any salvageable items. His Harley-Davidson motorcycle was mostly intact despite a melted seat. Kidd's bedroom was not damaged, so many of his belongings inside were still intact.

"I just hope," Eubanks said, "they find (the suspect) before somebody gets killed."

Staff writer Colleen Wright contributed to this report. Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 445-4157 or [email protected]

     
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