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Couple protects what fire didn't take

For the past three nights, Lee Bellamy has been sleeping in his shed, on a blue foam mat that is not as long as his body.

Bellamy and his wife, Lillie Mae, were displaced from their home of 34 years on 121st Street on Tuesday morning after a fire scorched the interior and destroyed their furniture, causing $40,000 in damage.

Mrs. Bellamy has been sleeping at the home of their daughter, who lives in the area.

Lee Bellamy, 70, has been sleeping in the shed next to the burned-out house because he fears someone trying to steal any of the items outside.

A lawn cutter, Bellamy has several mowers surrounding the shed. He also has a small boat.

The evening after the blaze, Bellamy said he heard two men walking by the home wondering if there was any cash inside.

"Hell, No!," Bellamy said loudly, making sure the men heard him. He said the two men ran away.

Concerned, Mrs. Bellamy, 66, comes by at night with sheets and a blanket for her husband.

"It scares me for him to be here by himself," she said.

A deeply religious couple, the Bellamys have vowed to press forward after the fire, buoyed by the support of friends and family who have come to their aid. But the situation has left some disconcerting adjustments.

The Bellamys have been married 48 years and rarely have they slept apart.

"It feels terrible," Bellamy said. "All these years we've been together. It feels terrible."

Largo Fire Department spokeswoman Dori Maxemow said the fire started about 8:45 a.m. in the kitchen.

Maxemow said investigators believe a piece of cloth near a burner on the gas stove began burning. She said the Bellamys did not believe the burner was on.

No one was injured in the blaze.

Aside from the broken windows, the exterior of the home shows few scars of the fire.

Inside, the walls that separated the various rooms are gone. Pots, pans and antique china are mostly blackened and strewn near the kitchen. Chunks of melted plastic and metal hang loosely from the freezer. Old photos are ruined. Burned-up box springs lean against the walls.

But the Bellamys refused to complain.

When asked about his temporary bed, Bellamy replied: "With the best you can do, you do the best you can."

"We can't stand around with tears coming from our eyes," said Mrs. Bellamy, her eyes becoming moist.

"We haven't had time to think about why. I am just grateful that we are still alive."

The couple had insurance, and they hope to rebuild their home.

"Sure I want to be back in my house," Bellamy said. "I worked hard to own this."

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