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House fire claims family's pets and other possessions

Dean Cook was stretched out on his couch for a morning nap when an intense heat woke him.

"I heard a crackling, and I got up and turned off the television and the radio," said Cook, 35. "That's when I ran right into the flames."

Cook escaped without injury. But an hour later, the mobile home he shared with his wife, Chasity, and their three children, ages 11, 9 and 7, was little more than a smoldering hunk of melted metal.

Even worse, the family's pets _ a 2-year-old Jack Russell terrier named Pepe and a brown and black striped kitten named Alea _ are believed to have died in the blaze.

"We lost everything," said Cook, wiping a tear from his cheek.

Fire companies from Connell Heights, Homosassa, Beverly Hills and Chassahowitzka scrambled to the home at 1620 W Highacres St., just off of County Road 491, about 8:40 a.m. Thursday.

County Fire Services director Mike Schlaudraff was the first to arrive. The mobile home was already completely engulfed by flames, he said.

"We got it put out pretty easily, but then it flared back up again," Schlaudraff said.

Firefighters were extinguishing the hot spots by 9:15 a.m.

Lt. Gloria Perrotti of the State Fire Marshal's Office said the cause of the fire was unknown Thursday morning. It is believed to have started in the home's master bedroom, she said.

Cook and his wife both work for Sun Pools in Brooksville. They went to work at 5 a.m. Thursday but Dean Cook returned home about 7 because he wasn't feeling well.

Their children were at Lecanto Primary School when the blaze began.

After Cook realized what was happening, he ran to neighbor Glenda Carte's mobile home and pounded on the door.

"He was screaming," Carte said. "He said, "Call the fire department, my house is on fire.' "

When Carte looked outside, she saw flames shooting from the windows of Cook's mobile home and dialed 911.

"The whole back side of the trailer was completely on fire," she said.

Cook and his wife have lived in the rented mobile home about nine months. They said they do not have insurance.

Dean Cook said the family planned to stay with friends Thursday night. The American Red Cross was also offering assistance.

But the help was small comfort after watching fire destroy everything they own.

"I just don't know what we're going to do," he said.

_ Crime reporter Carrie Johnson can be reached at 860-7309 or cjohnsonsptimes.com.

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