1. Archive


The tightly sealed mobile home in Odessa hid the flames and smoke from view.

From the outside, the tan home with the white trim on Hayden Avenue looked as tidy and neat as the rest of the mobile homes at Country Place Village.

But inside, authorities say, was a seething cauldron of smoke, fire and heat that critically burned a 60-year-old woman.

Firefighters rescued Gayle Ann Kumnick from her smoldering home Thursday morning then extinguished the blaze at 10520 Hayden Ave.

She suffered second-degree burns, according to Pasco Fire Rescue, who found her in the master bathroom. The master bedroom is adjacent to the home office where investigators believe the fire was started by an electrical short.

Kumnick was flown to the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital, where she was reported in critical condition late Thursday.

Landscapers and neighbors nearby didn't know anything was amiss until black smoke started billowing from the home's vents.

They knew Kumnick lived alone after her husband's passing months ago. Then they saw the red Ford Five Hundred and golf cart parked out front. Someone had to be home.

"Oh my God," landscaper Michelle Mayhew, 29, thought to herself. "I know she's in there."

Mayhew called 911 at 9:25 a.m. Others brandished hoses, breached the door and knocked out windows. But thick, toxic smoke - it was just inches off the ground - forced them back.

"There was just no way to get inside," said landscaper Jason Brengel, 29.

Firefighters arrived at 9:34 a.m. and brought the fire under control nine minutes later.

Kumnick is known as a friendly neighbor who likes to stay up late watching TV or reading.

"She's a very friendly lady to talk to," said neighbor Linda Julian, 67.

She is also known for her exotic pets - three box turtles, a bearded dragon, an iguana and a frog - who all survived the fire.

Two of her three dogs, however, did not. Only Fred, a Pomeranian, lived. Pasco County Animal Services took custody of the surviving pets.

One firefighter was taken to Community Hospital of New Port Richey to be treated for heat exhaustion but was reported fine later in the day.

Pasco Fire Rescue believes the fire started in the home office or den in the back corner of the home. The room was apparently filled with electronics.

But the home was shut tight with the air conditioner running, so no one knows how long the fire burned inside before those outside noticed.

"It was burned in that room," said acting Assistant Chief Mike Ciccarello. "There's a lot of plastics and synthetics in there, and the house is locked up because everyone is running their A/C.

"So it consumed the oxygen in the house. It went from a free-burning fire to a smoldering-stage fire."

Hours after the fire, there was still no outside sign of the damage wrought inside.

Firefighters were summoned back to the scene at 5 p.m. Thursday to put out some smoldering insulation.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.