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No one home when house caught fire

The house and lot at 6641 Boatyard Drive were purchased last year for $125,000.

Published March 9, 2004

HUDSON - Like everyone else driving U.S. 19 shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, Bob and Bertha Veller saw the dark column of smoke blowing from the west.

"I believe that's a house on fire," Bob told his wife, seated next to him in the Ford Econoline, their dachshund Baby Girl between them. A fire truck raced by; Bob pulled over.

The Vellers were returning home after an early dinner at Stacy's Homestyle Buffet a few miles down U.S. 19. The van made a left onto Sea Ranch Drive then left on Frances Avenue.

"Bert, that's coming from down the corner," Bob said. As they got closer, his voice rose:

"It looks like our house!"

The 74-year-old got out of the van, unable to go farther because of the fire trucks, and ran up the street. He clutched a hand to his face as he saw smoke billowing from their cream-color home at 6641 Boatyard Drive.

"It's gone. It's totally gone," Veller told his wife a short while later. "Wait until you see it."

"I don't think I want to," she replied, crying.

"Well, you're going to have to. It's gone, Bert. There's nothing left."

Pasco County fire officials still were investigating the cause of the blaze Monday evening. It appeared to start toward the rear of the house. No one was injured.

David Buckshaw, 60, was visiting a neighbor about 5 p.m. when he saw the smoke. "Who's barbecuing now?" he asked. The smoke got darker and thicker.

Jim Craun, 50, ran to the Veller home and touched the front door. "It felt like sticking your hand in the oven," he said.

He entered the garage, calling out if anyone was home. Nobody answered. Buckshaw used a hose to wet down a home next door until the fire trucks arrived.

Not long after that, the Vellers arrived to see their home in flames. According to tax records, the Vellers bought the house and lot last year for $125,000. The couple said the home was insured, but some items, such as the movies of Bob during the Korean War, could never be replaced. Neighbors said the Vellers have relatives in the area.

[Last modified March 9, 2004, 01:35:32]

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