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House in Dunedin burns as ceiling work begins

Firefighters work to put out the remnants of a fire that destroyed part of a home in the Amberlea subdivision of Dunedin late Monday morning.

JOSEPH GARNETT JR. | Times

Firefighters work to put out the remnants of a fire that destroyed part of a home in the Amberlea subdivision of Dunedin late Monday morning.

DUNEDIN — Sometime after 11 a.m. Monday, Sue Koechlin got the call as she was delivering lunch to her last Meals on Wheels client.

Her house was burning down.

Koechlin, 66, couldn't believe it. She had left home just 45 minutes earlier and all was well.

Workers from Quality Ceiling Refinishing had been preparing to tear down the dropped ceiling in her kitchen that she had long disliked and she was to come home to a much more up-to-date, airy room.

Instead, she came home to a smoldering house with a 20-foot hole in the roof.

The house — a single-story, four-bedroom home at 1651 Summit Way where she had lived for 26 years with her husband, Bob — appeared to have been destroyed.

Neighbor Jim Colvin said he noticed something was wrong when he prepared to take a morning bike ride. He looked up and saw a fire engine scream up the street and smoke pouring from the garage.

"Within 10 minutes, flames were shooting out of the roof," he said.

Units from Dunedin Fire Rescue, Palm Harbor Fire Rescue and Clearwater Fire and Rescue put the flames out in minutes.

By the time Koechlin got back to the house, she couldn't believe what she saw. The windows were knocked out, the contents were ashes, the soffits were melted and there was that hole in the roof.

Her husband was out of town.

"All they were going to do was take my ceiling and raise it," she said.

She said the electricity in the house had not been turned off at the time work began. An electrician had been scheduled to arrive about noon.

There were no injuries. Damages are estimated at $70,000 according to Trip Barrs, a Dunedin Fire Rescue district chief.

Officials from Quality Ceiling Refinishing would not comment.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, but Barrs said investigators believe the cause was electrical.

"I finally had (the house) the way I wanted it except the ceiling," Koechlin said. "Now I have to start from scratch. I think I'm going to a condo."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

House in Dunedin burns as ceiling work begins 07/28/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 3:18pm]
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