LARGO — Just two months after Shelley Duke piled her beloved pets and all her belongings into a U-Haul and drove cross-country from Washington, she said life was looking up.
She had decorated her 217 Lark Drive SW mobile home with the American flag flapping in the front yard. She had made friends outside of her brother and sister-in-law, who live nearby. A month ago, she had started a new job and was happy.
Duke was at the coin laundry Sunday afternoon preparing for another week when the phone rang. It was one of her new friends, a neighbor, saying Duke's home was on fire, burning so ferociously that officials said it drew 29 firefighters and 13 fire trucks from two departments.
In the end, Duke sobbed, just the flag and above-ground pool were recognizable — no vestiges of the deck that had surrounded it in sight.
Duke's pooches — Abby, a nearly 7-year-old Shih Tzu, and Lucky, a 3-year-old toy Yorkshire terrier rescue — likely died, she said. Fire Rescue officials confirmed finding one dog dead but not the other late Sunday.
"I don't know what I'm going to do. And I don't care," she said, dazed as friends and family hugged her. "My whole life just went up in flames but … I don't care about the material things. I just wanted my babies to be alive."
Two hours after authorities received a call about smoke rising from the area, Largo Fire Rescue Division Chief Joseph Pennino said officials were evaluating how to safely navigate the crumbling home and carport before they entered to investigate the cause.
He said the initial call came from an adjacent mobile home park, so some fire crews responded there first. But once they arrived, the fire was extinguished within 6 minutes.
The Seminole Fire Department assisted.
"There were flames 20 feet in the air," Pennino said. "The mobile home is a complete loss."
Duke's relatives said they would take her in.
Contact Keyonna Summers at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. Follow @KeyonnaSummers.