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Shortage of water hinders firefighters

A family's double-wide mobile home burns to the ground. The fire chief says a lack of hydrants doesn't help.

By CARY DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2000


CRYSTAL SPRINGS -- Doreen Komar and her 16-month-old daughter were asleep on the couch Friday when they were startled awake by a loud explosion followed by the unmistakable shriek of a fire alarm.

With her daughter Ecktarina in her arms, Komar fled the double-wide mobile home at 40723 Jerry Road just as flames were beginning to shoot up from the corner of the dwelling.

Then Komar realized she'd left something important inside: Daisy, the family's pet chihuahua.

After running back inside to rescue Daisy, Komar stood in the front yard, shaking her head and crying as she watched the flames slowly consume her family's 3-year-old home.

Firefighters battled the blaze, which began just before noon, for an hour before backing off, unable to stop the inevitable spread of flames.

Pasco County Fire/Rescue District Chief Debbie Fahlman said efforts to save the house were hindered by the absence of hydrants in the rural area. Without a steady flow of water to keep the three tanker trucks filled, firefighters never had a chance, Fahlman said.

"There's nothing we can do," Fahlman said after ordering firefighters to take a break until the roof caved in and it was safe to enter. The lack of fire hydrants, she said, "is causing major problems because we need massive amounts of water. It's very frustrating."

Two Pasco County firefighters were injured when the roof collapsed on them as they entered the mobile home and sprayed the ceiling with water, Fahlman said. The men suffered minor neck and shoulder injuries, Fahlman said.

Other firefighters were temporarily overcome by the thick smoke that billowed from the roof.

Jonathan Komar, Doreen's husband, paced around the yard, speculating that an arsonist had started the blaze. Investigators, however, determined late Friday that the fire started with an electrical short in an outdoor light timer, Fahlman said.

"I built the deck myself," he said, pointing to the only portion of the house that wasn't destroyed. "If the refrigerator is still there, I wonder if I can go and get me a beer?"

Firefighters remained at the house until 8 p.m. checking for hot spots.

The house, valued at $67,000, was a total loss. The only thing that survived the blaze, said Zephyrhills Fire Capt. Rex Guynn, was a collection of baseball cards underneath a bed.

"Everything we have worked for is gone," Doreen Komar said. "I don't have any clothes. My baby doesn't have any clothes."

The family will live with friends until they find permanent accommodations. The mobile home was insured, Jonathan Komar said.

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