Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Devastating Fire on Knight Island


All Islanders were stunned and saddened by the tragic death of an Island neighbor, Cheryl Stevens, and her son in a home fire over Memorial Day weekend. The family dog also perished in the fire.

An impromptu memorial appeared roadside as word spread through the neighborhood. Islanders have been asking how they might help the family at this time. We will update this article and pass on the information when it comes in. 

The only details that are available to date are presented in the article below, reprinted from the Sun-Herald. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Stevens' family.

Knight Island fire details emerge
By ELAINE ALLEN-EMRICH and STEVE REILLY
   STAFF WRITERS
   ENGLEWOOD — Charlotte County received eight frantic calls to 911 early Sunday reporting a Knight Island house engulfed in fire that killed a mother and son, and their dog.
   “The flames are shooting 75 feet up in the air,” the third, a male, caller told a 911 operator. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office released eight 911 calls Tuesday, redacting the names and addresses of the callers.
   The third caller described how he was 200 feet from the fire and could feel the heat. The caller’s home was four residences south of the fire at 101 North Gulf Blvd., on the island.
   “Holy Christ! It’s within a hundred feet from another house, and the people from the other house are getting out now,” the caller told the operator. She assured him the firefighters were on their way.
   The caller said embers flew west from the fire. He also heard “popping,” and said a power-line pole caught fire.
   “Now, the fire is completely through the roof,” the caller said. “The house is going down.”
   The sixth caller, a woman who said she lived in the home next to the fire, sounded panicked and told the 911 operator, “I want to get out of here.” The operator encouraged her to evacuate to a safe place.
   None of the callers knew if anyone was in the home at the time of the fire.
   Officials do not expect to complete their investigation of the fire for a week to 10 days or more.
   Two victims, identified only as a mother and son, and their dog, died in the early morning blaze. The husband and a daughter were not at home at the time.
   While officials are not identifying the victims, islanders already are mourning for the Stevens family of four who lived on the island.
   “We all feel so bad for Kevin (Stevens) and his daughter: (He) lost his wife Cheryl, their son who was visiting from college, and the dog Jasmine,” islander Mary Moore said Tuesday. “I hope the people on the island can pull together and help the family with anything they need. They will need everything.
   “Everybody is still in shock at this tragedy,” Moore also said. “People are putting flowers and crosses near the home.”
   In the wake of the fire, Moore said, “I saw Kevin, who had his arm around his daughter.”
   CCSO spokeswoman Debbie Bowe said the Sheriff’s Office is waiting for the Charlotte County Medical Examiner’s Office to complete its identification of the victims. Only then will the CCSO release their names.
   Also, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and sheriff’s officials work in tandem on the investigation. The fire marshal’s report is expected to be completed in a week, and will be released when the CCSO completes its investigation.
   Charlotte County Fire/ EMS is preparing a full incident report that could be released as early as today.
   According to the recordings, the first call was received at 2:44 a.m. Fire/EMS spokeswoman Dee Hawkins-Garland said the call was received at the fire department at 2:46 a.m. Station 10 on the island was en route at 2:50 a.m., and was on scene at 2:55 a.m.
   The first responders, Hawkins-Garland said, reported the fire had engulfed the residence when they arrived. The fire was so hot that they could not station their engine in front of the burning house without risking damage to their truck and equipment.
   Knight Island is bridgeless, and depends upon the Palm Island Transit for transportation between the island and the mainland. From the mainland, a second Charlotte County firetruck arrived at 3:04 a.m., and a third at 3:10 a.m. The Englewood Area Fire Control District also was called for assistance.
   Depending upon the distances from fire stations, response times can vary, but Hawkins-Garland said the department considers four to six minutes an optimum response time.
   Email: eallen@sun-herald.com 
   Email: reilly@sun-herald.com 

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