SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - A 72-year-old woman and a dog are dead after the house they were in burst into flames early Sunday with the family asleep inside.
The Seminole County Fire Department said its crews responded to the 2,600-square-foot home located at 1820 Center Drive shortly before 1 a.m. and found it about 75% engulfed in flames with its roof partially collapsed.
Neighbor Justin Burch saw the fire. "I went down the street right here and you could clearly see the house was fully-engulfed," he said. "Right when I walked up I was videotaping the roof collapsed, and the firemen started yelling evacuate, evacuate, evacuate!"
Crews said two family members – a 66-year-old woman and a 14-year-old – and a dog were able to escape the fire, but the 72-year-old woman and another dog remained unaccounted for. Authorities later confirmed both had been found dead.
"Once we got in there, we were met by what we thought was a gas-fed fire, that was already burning. So that increased the fire to a rapid growth, up to 75%," said Battalion Chief Jim Monahan, with the Seminole County Fire Dept.
The house is set back from the road and there are lots of trees and bushes in the way. Firefighters said that kept them from getting water on the fire quickly. They say the nearest hydrant was also far away, in a gated community.
"We were met by several challenges. Part of that was the extended lay from the water supply. It was over a thousand feet. We had to do relay pumping through multiple engines," Monahan said.
Investigators from the county, state, and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office are looking into the deadly fire. It was the first deadly fire in Seminole County, this year.
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Investigators say smoke detectors in the house kept the tragedy from becoming even greater. "Even though there was a fatality involved and we don't understand the circumstances behind that, the other occupants were able to evacuate due to working smoke alarms, due to that notification," said Asst. Chief Christina Diaz, Seminole County Fire Marshal.
More than 20 units responded to the two-alarm fire.
The American Red Cross has been requested to help the family.