HOLIDAY — His dogs couldn't get out.
Lightning had crashed through the roof above Bill Stevens' bedroom, and the insulation in his ceiling caught fire. It was about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday. Stevens and his wife, Penny, were at work.
When Pasco County firefighters arrived at 5240 Eagle Drive, about four minutes later, the one-story ranch house was engulfed. It took about 45 minutes to extinguish the blaze, which also damaged a neighbor's house. No one was injured, but the dogs didn't survive.
Pugsly, a 3-year-old boxer, and Echo, a 13-year-old greyhound, were found together in Stevens' bedroom.
Pugsly got her name because it fit her crazy personality, Stevens said. Echo is short for Echo Echo Rosebud, the name she had when they rescued her. She used to be a race dog.
"They were good puppies," he said, three hours after hurrying home from his job with the county to find the house he'd owned for 30 years destroyed.
Inside, sopping insulation, which had fallen from the ceilings, covered everything. It lay like mud on toys and a bowling trophy. A safe stood just inside the front door, still protecting its contents. Outside, a firewood stack was unburned, proof firefighters worked quickly enough to stop exterior walls from being consumed.
Yet fire officials declared the house a total loss, according to a news release. The Stevenses have insurance, though, and will stay with family until they can rebuild.
They're not leaving, Stevens said. They like the neighborhood.
Stevens' son Ben said some photos and important belongings survived, but not much else. The roof above what used to be his room was almost gone.
"This is the only house I've ever known," Ben Stevens said.
While reporters and firefighters cleared the scene, the Stevenses, their family and friends waited on the street for insurance adjusters to arrive. Someone ordered pizza.
The home can be rebuilt, Stevens said, but he won't get Echo and Pugsly back.
"They were my babies."
Contact Gage Bentley at email@example.com or (727) 869-6250. Follow @gagebentley.