Gas generator blamed for house fire

OKEECHOBEE — The use of a gas-powered generator is being blamed for a blaze that left a S.W. Sixth Street home nearly totally destroyed.

Jon Moore, a spokesman from the state fire marshal’s office in Tallahassee, said the April 17 blaze is still under investigation but it is being classified as an accidental fire.

“A gas powered generator was wired to a direct power source and that’s what caused the fire,” said Mr. Moore in a phone interview Tuesday morning, April 19.

He went on to say the roof collapsed and the single-family concrete block home at 1006 S.W. Sixth St. will likely be declared a total loss.

Investigators, continued Mr. Moore, “didn’t see anything to rule it was criminal activity that caused the fire.”

Firefighters from the Okeechobee City Fire Department (OCFD) and Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue (OCF/R) battled the blaze that apparently started around 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

OCF/R firefighters were on the scene nearly four hours and did not leave until 3:21 a.m., stated a report by Lieutenant Everette Wooten, an OCF/R firefighter/paramedic. The blaze was reportedly under control by 1:30 a.m.

An OCFD fire report stated: “No persons (were) found to be in (the) structure and it was considered to be abandoned. But, later, the crew learned from neighbors that the structure was apparently occupied by tenants not believed to have the right to be there.”

That report went on to explain multiple wires from the generator were connected to the electrical meter on the side of the home.

“The observation indicated that power was being flowed backward into the home’s electrical system,” stated the OCFD report. “The FPL meter was removed and it appeared the meter and box had been tampered with, based on the damage and remaining burnt wires.”

The OCFD report went on to state: “Neighbors confirmed that people were living there, and police reports indicate the possibility of the location’s involvement in illegal drug operation.”

It was also noted in the city report that at least three portable LP tanks were stored inside the house, along with cooking appliances.

According to the Okeechobee County Property Appraiser’s web site the home was built in 1964 and is apparently owned by Rose Marie Bonnell, whose current address is in Brooksville.

Both fire reports indicated when firefighters arrived on the scene they found “… heavy smoke showing and flames through the roof.”

The city report stated there was heavy smoke coming from the eaves, which indicated a fire in the attic.

“This situation is one of the most dangerous conditions for firefighters,” the report pointed out.

At that point, continued the city report, all of the firefighters were ordered to evacuate the home and the blaze was then battled from “a safer environment.”

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