Sanibel residents Bert Smith and his son Nick lost their home last Friday morning when fire destroyed the wood structure in the Gumbo Limbo development.
"We were on scene at 3:23 a.m.," said Sanibel Fire Chief Danny Duncan. "We were assisted by four units from Iona-McGregor and one from Fort Myers Beach. In all we had about 24 firefighters on scene, plus the ambulance attendants there for us."
Duncan said Smith was awakened by a fire detector, saw the flames, called 911 and awoke his son. Both escaped the blaze unharmed and no firefighters were injured.
The home of Bert Smith in the Gumbo Limbo development on Sanibel was consumed by flames Friday morning.
"The smoke detector probably saved their lives," said Duncan. "I'd like to remind everyone to check the batteries in their smoke detectors, because you never know."
Duncan said the State Fire Marshal ruled the fire accidental, ruling out electrical and other sources near where the fire started. A barbecue grill on the outside deck had been used earlier in the day, Duncan said, but could not pinpoint the ignition with 100 percent certainty.
"It started on the deck, climbed the outside wall and got into the attic above them, so it got a good start above them before enough smoke got into the house to trip the smoke detector," Duncan said.
The destruction to the home is estimated at $352,000 plus all of their possessions estimated at another $100,000, Duncan added.
Smith is director of management & information systems (MIS) for the City of Sanibel. The city and Friends In Service Here (FISH) have set up an assistance program for the family. Anyone wishing to participate can donate to the City of Sanibel Employee Assistance Fund (Smith Fire) at FISH, 1630-B, Periwinkle Way, or by calling (239) 472-4775.
"On behalf of the Smith family and all city employees, the offer of support at this time is a testament to our community spirit," city manager Judith Zimomra said in a prepared release.
Smith, who reported to work on Friday, stayed with friends on the island over the weekend and is working with his insurance company to secure a housing solution, according to Zimomra.