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Family just moved in; fire moves them out

By Stephanie Garry, Times Staff Writer
Published February 23, 2008


ST. PETERSBURG - Johnilynn Wunderlich moved back to St. Petersburg three days ago to start a new life after caring for her ailing mother in Kentucky.

Almost all of the family's belongings were boxed up in the spacious living room of the house she worked for years to overhaul.

On Friday night, the tan walls of the living room had turned to charcoal black. The paint bubbled up, and the drapes melted.

St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue officials don't know yet what sparked the blaze, which did about $60,000 in damage, but said it was mostly contained to the one room where Wunderlich and her daughters - 19-year-old Jessica and 4-year-old Graisen - left all their belongings.

The three were shopping for swim suits for a dip in their pool when the fire started about 6:30 p.m.

Much of her life sat in a burned heap within the ivy-choked perimeter of her white picket fence at 868 25th Ave. N. The melted wheel of a stroller poked out of the rubble. Burns exposed the metal springs on a child's mattress. Pictures of her children were discolored from the heat.

"It's all gone," said Wunderlich, 40. "Everything that we've worked for is all gone in a big old horrible mess."

"Was my room on fire?" her 4-year-old asked, looking up at her mom, a critical care nurse who was going to start a job at St. Petersburg General today.

"Honey, just about everything we own is gone," Wunderlich answered.

"Awww," Graisen said.

Wunderlich's Kentucky boyfriend, still cleaning up the mess on his farm from a tornado, was planning on moving in with them.

Now, they'll wait for the inspector to visit on Monday, and be grateful they found the cats, Spirit and Oreo.

Stephanie Garry can be reached at or 727 892-2374.

[Last modified February 23, 2008, 00:46:13]

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