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Couple give mobile home to fire victim

About 9:30 a.m. Friday, Janet Ingalls was released from Largo Medical Center.

She survived a fire Monday night that destroyed her mobile home on her 54th birthday. She was treated for smoke inhalation and overcame persistent headaches.

Ingalls, who has hepatitis C and rheumatoid arthritis, has been out of work as a counselor for almost two years. Now she was returning to the Eldorado Village mobile home park having lost almost everything she owned.

But, by the end of the day Friday, her luck would change.

She would be reunited with her dear pet. She would recover family mementos. And someone would offer her a home.

As she arrived at the burnt shell of her home, she wore donated apparel: bright blue cotton pants, a baggy gray sweat shirt, socks and black flip-flops. The hospital had lost her clothes.

She wandered to her next-door neighbor's house and called out for Tazz. Within a few seconds her skinny, striped cat crawled out from under a mobile home and rubbed against her.

After lavishing attention on Tazz, she trudged through the charred remains of her home. Her clothes, still hanging in a closet, were ruined. But she found four packs of DTC ultra-light cigarettes, a purple mirror, her wallet with her birth certificate and Social Security card inside, a scorched hairbrush and chamomile lozenges.

A few hours later, in her friend's shed, she came across grocery bags stuffed with her family's pictures. One of the firefighters had salvaged them and brought them over.

Some were burnt, melted or singed, but many were intact.

She rifled through the bags and broke into sobs of joy.

"It's some of my kids' pictures. My baby picture. My baby's picture. My brother and sister," Ingalls said. "There's more here than I thought."

Ingalls sat on a canvas chair on her neighbor's porch and patted at her tears with a tissue.

"Tazz is like my kid," she said. "The pictures were a bonus. It blows my mind."

The biggest surprise came Friday afternoon. A Largo couple in their 80s, who want to remain anonymous, said they read about her in the paper and they wanted to help her.

Ingalls called them. They told her they had inherited a mobile home at Sun Village in the Largo area and they wanted to give it to her.

"She talked to me as if she knew me," Ingalls said. "She was just so thoughtful."

Largo Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Jeff Bullock said the fire is still under investigation and investigators don't suspect foul play.

Ingalls planned on seeing the home late Friday.

"It's way more than generous," she said. "It's overwhelming."

_ Lorri Helfand can be reached at 445-4155 or at

Janet Ingalls returned to her burned home in Eldorado Village mobile home park Friday. She trekked through the wreckage, finding few salvageable items. However, a neighbor's shed housed photos that a firefighter rescued. "I thought my family pictures were burned . . . They are all I have left," she said.

Ingalls and her skinny, striped cat, Tazz, survived the blaze. "Tazz is like my kid," she said.

Charred dresses still hang from Janet Ingalls' closet Friday. Fire destroyed her mobile home in Eldorado Village on Monday. Ingalls and her cat, Tazz, survived the blaze, as did some family photos rescued by a firefighter. "The pictures were a bonus. It blows my mind," she said.