CLEARWATER — Fire destroyed a mobile home late Wednesday morning, sending a column of black smoke into the air and prompting a response from more than 20 fire-rescue units.
No one was injured, but the double-wide at 2669 Teakwood Drive in Japanese Garden Mobile Estates was left a smoldering ruin.
Owners David and Juanita Darnold, both 68, were not at home when the fire started.
David Darnold said his wife called him at work at 9 a.m. and asked him to come home because she smelled a sewer-like "gassy" smell. When David got home, the couple left with their dog, a 9-year-old Shih Tzu named Lucky, and went to a nearby McDonald's on U.S. 19. A short time later, a neighbor called to say the home was on fire.
"By the time we got here, it was gone,'' David Darnold said.
The couple has owned the home for six years, he said.
Elba Alicea, 38, who was visiting a friend in the park, said she drove by the fire as she came back from shopping.
"It just went up like that,'' she said, snapping her fingers. "It was just engulfed. It was coming out of the windows. It was a very scary thing to see.''
Two neighbors said they heard an explosion.
Juanita Darnold was taken to a hospital with chest pains after the incident.
Clearwater Fire and Rescue was called to the scene about 11:15 a.m. Firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to adjacent units, said Clearwater public safety spokeswoman Beth Watts.
"Luckily, it's not too windy," Watts said.
The blaze was brought under control in about 20 minutes, but the home was a total loss, Watts said.
About two dozen neighbors milled around outside. One couple offered to drive David Darnold to the hospital to be with his wife. A woman stroked Lucky's head and offered to "doggy sit" for as long as the couple needed her.
And park managers Stephen and Linda Lyle readied another unit for the couple.
Linda Lyle put her hand on David Darnold's shoulder. "Don't worry about anything except you and your wife," she said.
Linda Lyle and others said they planned to start collecting donations of clothes and money Wednesday afternoon.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation Wednesday afternoon, Watts said.
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4157.