SEMINOLE — Neighbors would see the woman from Unit 143 raking leaves and tending to shrubs outside her home in the Twin Oaks condominium community. At 97 years old, Alice Haker was known for being talkative and staying busy.
They knew less of her 72-year-old disabled daughter, who shared the home, but only emerged for doctor's visits or other appointments with her mother.
"I give her a lot of admiration for taking care of her daughter," said neighbor John Thompson, 70.
Both mother and daughter were dead Thursday night after a fire ripped through the home. The cause of the blaze was under investigation.
It all started just before sunset, about 6 p.m., at Twin Oaks Condominiums, 11200 102nd Ave. N.
Thompson was sitting on the couch in the living room of his condo watching the evening news when he heard someone tapping on the window behind him. When he turned around, he saw smoke and flames crashing through the windows of the building next door.
He sprang to his feet and ran to the fire. He knew Haker kept the back door unlocked, so he ran through it into the burning building.
He called out Haker's name, but heard nothing. Inside, he fell to his hands and knees. He didn't get far before backing out.
"The smoke was so thick and black, I couldn't breathe," Thompson said.
When firefighters arrived, they found Haker unconscious outside the unit. She was taken to a local hospital, where she died.
Fire crews found a second woman dead inside the condo. Deputies believe that woman is Haker's daughter, whom they identified as Marlene Schaffran, but they could not make a positive identification Thursday night because of the nature of her injuries.
Homicide detectives were examining the blaze, though the circumstances did not appear suspicious, said sheriff's spokesman Tom Nestor.
Smoke and flames damaged two other units in the single-story building. It was unclear if anyone would be displaced from their home.
As authorities secured the scene, neighbors gathered behind caution tape and chatted about the women they knew and what may have caused the blaze. Thompson said the daughter was a smoker.
"I've been inside the house," Thompson said. "A lot of clutter. A lot of fuel for a fire."
Dan Sullivan can be reached at (727) 893-8321 or [email protected]