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Vol 5 No. 38 - June 8, 2005

‘We lost everything’

Firefighters prepare to enter the burning house. Flames can be seen shooting out of the attic as thick smoke billows from the windows.

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – 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 Fire Department.
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 were dead.

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 to blame.

"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 for now."

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

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