Fire guts two homes in South Walton in two days

DEBORAH WHEELER 267-4555 | @WaltonSunDeb dwheeler@waltonsun.com

South Walton Fire District has been busy as of late, responding to two major house fires in two days.

The first occurred the evening of Feb. 4 at a home in the 5700 block of W. County Road 30A.

Walton County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Corey Dobridnia said the call came in about 8:30 p.m.

"When WCSO and firefighters arrived on scene, the structure was fully involved," said Dobridnia.

Sheriff's deputies closed the road for several hours while South Walton Fire worked to put out the blaze.

SWFD was on scene all night fighting to contain it.

WCSO reopened that section of County Road 30A at 7:30 a.m. Friday.

Deborah Moore stood outside the gutted home the next morning. Moore and her husband were returning home from dinner out Thursday night when they decided to turn onto a dirt road just off 30A to look at a property that is for sale.

When they turned onto the dirt road, they saw flames at the back of the large, three-story house that fronts 30A.

The couple saw no one with the fire and the house was dark. They immediately dialed 911.

"It appeared the flames were outside but going inside," she said. "The fire department was here within about a minute, so, someone must have already called them."

Moore said when she and her husband came upon the fire, it appeared to just be starting, and the flames were on the back outside lower level of the house.

"In the beginning, we couldn't see any flames in the front of the house, but within 20 minutes, it was totally engulfed," she said. "It moved fast and there was a lot of wind blowing towards the Gulf."

SWFD Fire Marshal Sammy Sanchez was onsite Friday morning, along with the state Fire Marshal to determine the cause of the fire. However, in a statement released later, the agencies were unable to determine the cause of the fire, but no foul play is suspected.

Sanchez said the house had sold to new owners a year or two ago and was being renovated. The loss is estimated at more than $1 million. No one was at the house when the fire broke out. The home was a total loss.

The second major residential fire occurred two days later in a community off Chat Holley Road.

SWFD crews responded to the fire at a home on North Eden Park Drive off Chat Holley in Santa Rosa Beach late Saturday.

Within minutes of receiving the initial 911 call, SWFD units arrived on scene there and found heavy fire coming from the three-story unoccupied residential structure.

The second and third floors of the home had already collapsed.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames and prevent it from spreading throughout the heavily wooded area.

A joint investigation between the SWFD and Florida State Fire Marshal's Office was conducted and the fire was deemed to be suspicious in nature.

SWFD Chief Rick Talbert said that fire is still under active investigation with final determination of the cause for the fire pending.

He said arson is suspected as there were two fires on the property that night.

"We have turned it over to the State Fire Marshal," he said.

This property was estimated to be valued at $407,000 and appeared to be abandoned.

Anyone with information about this fire is asked to contact SWFD Fire Marshal Sammy Sanchez at 267-1298 or email ssanchez@swfd.org.