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Fire destroys dwelling, damages 3 others

An accidental fire Tuesday destroyed one mobile home and did minor damage to three neighboring dwellings at the Hickory Point RV Park, fire officials said.

John Wiersma, 67, said he suffered a minor burn to the little finger of his right hand as he tried to extinguish the blaze, which was reported just before 3 p.m. The RV park is at 1181 Anclote Road, just south of the Pinellas-Pasco county line.

At first, Wiersma threw three pans of water onto the fire, which started in the bedroom of his mobile home. That didn't help, and an outside hose stopped 10 feet short of the front door, he said.

The fire swept quickly through the one-bedroom structure.

"Everything inside is pretty much destroyed," Tarpon Springs Fire Marshal Rick Butcher said.

Fire officials said the Red Cross was being called in to find a place for Wiersma, a retired chemical technician who said he lives in Tarpon Springs five months of the year and in Michigan the rest of the time.

The fire did an estimated $15,000 in damage to Wiersma's mobile home, which he said was not insured. Heat from the blaze also did an estimated $750 in damage to the awning of a Winnebago motor home parked next door, $3,000 in damage to the fascia and roof of a mobile home to the rear, and $500 to $1,000 in damage to a fifth-wheel travel trailer parked next door.

The three dwellings damaged by the fire were still habitable, fire officials said.

Ilze Merrett, 52, a tourist vacationing from Ontario, lives in the travel trailer. She said she closed windows and grabbed her purse and phone after a neighbor told her of the fire.

"Some of the guys in the park, they grabbed hoses and were spraying," she said.

No one else was injured.

The fire started when Wiersma was trying to find something under his bed and was using a lighter to help him see, Butcher said. That caught the bed on fire, and from there flames spread. The accident underscores the need to use a flashlight rather than a flame for illumination, Butcher said.

"You always have (to be) careful with candles or any open flame," he said.