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FIRE DEVASTATES KEY WEST HOMES; ALL PEOPLE & PETS ARE SAFE – Florida Keys Weekly Newspapers


FIRE DEVASTATES KEY WEST HOMES; ALL PEOPLE & PETS ARE SAFE - Florida Keys Weekly Newspapers
Investigators believe the fire started in a backyard shed and workshop that contained chemicals, boat fiberglass and wood. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

Carrie Helliesen spent her birthday morning Thursday waiting for a call back from the American Red Cross while keeping her husband, Doug, and her cellphone close. 

They were all she had left after a Wednesday night fire devastated their home of 40 years at 1221 Laird St. and severely damaged the neighboring home of Walter and Joanna Schmida on Georgia Street.

Crossing the police tape that surrounds her property, the smell of smoke still hanging over the neighborhood, Helliesen managed a laugh and a quick, but genuine smile.

“It’s amazing what shock can do to you, what it can get you through. Isn’t it funny today’s my birthday?” she said, shaking her head for the hundredth time in relief that no one was hurt, including two dogs and three turtles that were rescued by Key West firefighters.

“Not one person got hurt, and the two dogs and three turtles are all fine,” Key West Fire Marshal Jason Barroso told the Keys Weekly on Thursday morning while state investigators surveyed the property and damage and Key West firefighters continued to keep an eye out for “hot spots.” “We’re still investigating, but we initially believe the fire started in the back workshop, which was separate from the house. It had a bunch of chemicals, wood and fiberglass for boat restoration, which made it burn hot and fast. Then it spread to the house, which is a duplex with renters in one portion, and to the side of the neighbors’ house.”



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