Fire Destroys Gainesville Home
It was supposed to be a fun vacation for one Gainesville couple but it ended with a phone call. It was a call no one wants to hear - a fire gutting their home.
An official investigation is underway to determine what caused a fire at a home on Northwest 51st Terrace just before 4pm Saturday afternoon. Witness Corby Richardson says he saw lightning flash close by and then smoke coming from the house. "I noticed smoke breathing over the road. I looked to my right and saw a house was on fire so I decided to pull over since their was a car in the driveway and made sure no one was inside. I banged on the door and called the fire department."
The homeowner, University of Florida Police Department Lieutenant Chuck Snowden and his wife were not home at the time. Relatives say they were in St. Augustine for the weekend. Investigators tell TV20 with the thick smoke and heavy rain, there was no visibility on Northwest 23rd Avenue. "The rain, it holds the smoke down so it made it a little difficult to see. You could see the smoke where the fire was but you couldn't see the road," says Gainesville Fire Rescue District Chief Joanne Rice.
Fire officials believe the fire started in the back of the home where the fireplace once was. Two propane tanks were releasing gas which caused the fire to quickly spread throughout the house. "It's unfortunate when you're on vacation and to get that phone call that you had an emergency at your home and come back and find the devastation that you see here."
Snowden's parents moved into the home in the 1960s. They moved out and their son moved in permanently in 1988. Now he and his wife will have to find another place to call home for the meantime. "This is not livable at this point. The power's been shut off to it and they'll have to unfortunately have to get a lot of their things together and have to make contact with their insurance companies."
Snowden's parents tell me their son does have insurance. They live in Gainesville and Snowden's neighbors say they are willing to help out with room and board.
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