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Port Richey man burned, 13 dogs killed in explosion that destroyed home

A Port Richey man suffered serious burns and a number of dogs were killed when his home exploded in flames Sunday evening as he was fueling a gas powered electric generator in the garage, fire rescue officials said. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
A Port Richey man suffered serious burns and a number of dogs were killed when his home exploded in flames Sunday evening as he was fueling a gas powered electric generator in the garage, fire rescue officials said. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
Published Aug. 22, 2017

PORT RICHEY — A man suffered serious burns and a dozen of his dogs were killed when his house exploded and caught fire Sunday night as he was fueling an electric generator, Pasco County Fire Rescue said.

The victim, who is in his 40s, received burns over 40 percent of his body and was airlifted to a trauma center, where he was listed in critical condition, Fire Rescue said. His home at 8705 Velvet Drive was destroyed. A house next door at 8711 Velvet Drive also was damaged by fire and the family living there was getting help from the Red Cross.

Authorities did not name the family or the injured man, but neighbors identified him as John King. They said they saw him emerge from the explosion with apparent burns.

Brenda Worman, who lives nearby, told the Tampa Bay Times she was at the movies Sunday when her husband, John, called and told her, "The house across the street is on fire. There are explosions. It keeps exploding."

King kept ammunition in the house, she said. People in the neighborhood knew him as a man who would fix their cars for them.

John Worman saw firefighters pulling puppies from the house, placing them on a sheet, rubbing them and giving them oxygen, his wife said.

There was a new litter of puppies at the house, Brenda Worman said.

James Owens, who also lives across the street, said he heard animals crying as the house burned and saw King run out and roll on the ground, crying about his dogs inside. Owens said King had about 20 dogs. Some were in cages and some roamed free inside, Fire Rescue said.

The owner of the house, Zac Boelkow, was at the scene Monday morning and said he had rented to King for about three years. The victim had no power to the house, Fire Rescue said, and was using a generator in his garage. Boelkow said he didn't realize this and couldn't explain it.

Fire Rescue said the blast was caused by improper refueling of the generator.

Firefighters received a call about a fire and possible explosion about 7:15 p.m. Sunday and arrived to find both houses engulfed in flames.

The victim lived alone at the home, Fire Rescue said. Fire crews rescued two of his dogs, but 12 were found dead there.

At the house next door, fire crews saved one dog and one died. Property owner Donna Mosser visited the scene Monday to speak with contractors about whether the structure could be saved.

Mosser told the Times she rents to a family but that only the father was home at the time of the fire. The children's bedroom, close to the neighboring house, was among the rooms that burned.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com. Contact @haltman.

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