Doctor’s office ravaged by fire

OKEECHOBEE — An early morning blaze Sunday at the Eye Center of Okeechobee did an estimated $150,000 in damages to the building and $575,000 to its contents, stated an Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue (OCF/R) report.

The business, owned and operated by Dr. Miguel Espiritu, reportedly sustained heavy damage to interior rooms, electrical tools and medical equipment.

A report by firefighter/paramedic Lieutenant Robert Banfield indicated the blaze was reported to OCF/R at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 3. Firefighters arrived at 2:37 a.m. and the blaze was under control by 6:30 a.m.

Besides OCF/R, the Okeechobee City Fire Department responded to the scene at 304 N.W. 19th Drive.

The lieutenant’s report stated when firefighters arrived they encountered smoke coming from the eave and a side doorway. When crews opened the door they encountered thick black smoke pouring out of the doorway.

“We then pushed our way into the rear hallway encountering some heavy fire-load materials and extreme heat and smoke along the hallway,” stated Lt. Banfield’s report.

He went on to point out when crews reached the second adjoining hallway their thermal imager showed completely red with heat in the ceiling.

“We then began putting some water down the hallway and the ceiling area where the fire was located. We were able to knock down the fire some, but due to the extreme heat and steam created we had to pull back to a safe area,” continued the report.

A hole in the roof was opened up which aided in the venting of heat and smoke from inside the structure.

When able, fire crews entered the structure and found two rooms totally destroyed and two more were damaged by the fire and heat.

“The remaining rooms only suffered smoke and heat damage. All the electrical tools and medical equipment were damaged from the heat and smoke,” offered Lt. Banfield.

The rooms where the files and records were kept were salvageable and sustained minor smoke damage, he added.

Lt. Banfield went on to indicate the investigation into the cause of the blaze has been turned over to the state fire marshal’s office.

The lieutenant also noted the fire alarm notified his agency of the fire and the smoke detector was activated.

It took 1,000 gallons of water to extinguish the blaze.

The report indicated the building is owned by Dr. Espiritu and Dr. Manuel Garcia.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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