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Cause of Hart Drive fire believed to be electrical

By CHUCK BALLARO - | Feb 25, 2021

An early morning fire in Suncoast Estates on Thursday destroyed a double-wide mobile home on Hart Drive, leaving everyone who lived there displaced.

Christi Kulwicki, fire inspector for the North Fort Myers Fire District, said it was believed the fire was likely caused by an electrical issue. Oxygen tanks used by a resident then contributed to the fire’s spread as it is combustible, she added.

“The double wide mobile home was split into rooms. You basically had six people sharing this home,” Kulwicki said. “It wasn’t like a three-apartment complex with separate exits. They were renting rooms.”

All parties, including animals, got out safely but all six people are now displaced. The Red Cross has provided for those now without a home as the structure is a total loss.

Kulwicki said one of the people smoked in the home, and there was a lot of clutter in the house, since several families lived there.

“The more items people have that are combustible the more chance you have for a heavy fire. There were items everywhere,” Kulwicki said. “The inspector told me to look at the fire load, and I said ‘Yeah.’ They were so lucky.”

She added that the type of materials has a lot to do with how quickly a fire starts.

“People don’t realize the items they have are made of synthetic materials like plastic. Even the carpet and rugs. In the 1980s we had 14 minutes to get out the house. Now, it’s three,” Kulwicki said. “People need to take the steps to make themselves safe.”

Kulwicki suggests purging unnecessary items, having a smoke alarm and a plan to get out in case of a fire. Also, don’t smoke in the home.

“When I find out I have an elderly person who smokes in the home, I know they’re going to continue to smoke, so I try to get them to agree to smoke at the dining room table and don’t smoke in bed,” Kulwicki said. “If you fall asleep smoking, the next thing you know the couch is on fire. And they go up quick.”

American Red Cross volunteers from the Florida Gulf Coast to Heartland Chapter responded to the fire and helped coordinate emergency aid to those affected.