By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
It was to be an enjoyable outing. Warren Ratcliff
has a week off from his job as a technology specialist
that keeps him on the road a lot and his wife,
Jennifer, had some of her prized rabbits entered
at a show in Deland, near Daytona. They had left
their other animals at their home, safely locked
inside, when something went wrong.
The two were living in an older, two-story house
at 208 Sycamore Ave., in Anna Maria, that belonged
to his mother, Patricia, of Lakeland. They lived
upstairs and used the downstairs for storage and
projects. Shortly before 9:30 a.m. on Saturday,
flames broke out in the second story, filling
the skies above the home just a block and a half
from the Gulf, with smoke.
West Manatee Fire & Rescue received a call
at 9:26 a.m. and an ambulance and fire truck responded.
Within minutes, second and third fire trucks were
on their way, followed by one from the Longboat
Key Fire Department and one from the Bradenton
Firemen raced up the outside stairs and into the
living area, extinguishing the flames inside as
a stubborn fire flared in the attic above them.
The damage was already done, however, and many
of the animals the couple had raised at the house
According to Jennifer, they lost five dogs, three
cats, three sultaca turtles, six water turtles,
eight frogs, a bearded dragon lizard-like reptile,
a spiny lizard, a chinchilla, two hairless guinea
pigs and 12 fish, including a mud skipper, a clown
knife and 10 goldfish.
The fire in the attic took a while to extinguish
and when they were done, the roof was sagging
and charred. The fire department called the home
a total loss. Fire investigator Curt Lathrop was
at the house for most of Sunday and concluded
his investigation saying the fire was electrical
in nature. The Ratcliffs feel a power strip for
the television, satellite dish and stereo was
"I find it a little ironic that this house
has gone through so many hurricanes year after
year and that it was modern technology that spelled
its doom," said Warren Monday as he and his
wife tried to salvage what they could.
"Right now, we have nothing," said Jennifer
Monday morning. "His mother put us up Saturday
and last night in a motel and the Red Cross has
contacted us. We hope they can put us into a motel
They hope they can find someplace on the Island
to stay while the insurance company settles with
Warren's mother and they build a new home there.
They say they need money for the necessities now
and are taking donations, either at the site of
the fire, at P.O. Box 1138, Anna Maria Island,
Fl 34216, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.