BROOKSVILLE — Heather Desin clutched her skateboard and watched with a furrowed brow Tuesday afternoon as firefighters doused the flames licking at what was left of a home on Roper Road.
The 14-year-old Hernando High School student said she'd heard on the bus ride home that a house was on fire in her Hill 'n Dale neighborhood east of Brooksville. When she skated down the street, it dawned on her that the same home had hosted a yard sale recently.
The people were friendly, Desin said. She bought a dream catcher, a clock and a picture of an American Indian.
"I realized it was them, and I was kind of sad," Desin said.
An initial search turned up no one inside.
Neighbors reported seeing flames and smoke coming from the roof of the single-story brick house about 2 p.m. Firefighters had to contend with heavy winds that fanned the flames. Within half an hour, the roof had collapsed and the rear screen over the patio had crumbled and fallen into the pool. By 3:30, fire officials described the home as a total loss. The investigation to determine the cause of the fire continued Tuesday.
An elderly couple had lived in the home for years, according to neighbors. The man died a few years ago, neighbors said, and the woman died of cancer just a few weeks ago, neighbors said.
The couple's son Danny had come to stay with his mother in her final weeks and hosted the yard sale after she died, said Ronnie Lee, who lives next door.
"Nice guy," Lee said. "He packed up and left this morning to head back home to North Florida."
The house was built in 1963. Samuel LeBlanc purchased the home in 1980 for $52,000 and sold it to Bernadette LeBlanc for $100 in 2006, county property records show. The market value is listed as $92,939.
Times photojournalist Will Vragovic contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or [email protected]