Family members stood together in support Thursday on Partridge Point Trail, in the Twin Lakes of Brandon community in Valrico, where Linda Baldwin watched in shock as firefighters and detectives scoured through her fire-ravaged home.
“Just give them your blessings,” said Nina Robnett, whose brother, Craig, is married to Baldwin. “They need prayers, most of all, and strength."
The Baldwin home, at 3016 Partridge Point Trail, was consumed by flames earlier today, June 7, as neighbors looked on helplessly. Nobody was in the home when the fire started. The family’s dog was believed to have been inside.
Saved from the fire was a bowl of tropical fish.
Fire investigator Dave Watts said at the scene that Engine 27, from the Bloomingdale Volunteer Fire Department, was among the eight fire trucks, three chiefs and two rescue cars that responded to what he described as a two-alarm fire.
“The owners are on the way,” he said, before Baldwin’s daughter, Chereese Twillie, 33, arrived on the scene. She was the first family member to arrive. She said her parents owned the home and that they had lived there since she was 18.
Rob Wilson lives next door.
“I was sitting in the back of my house and this neighbor rang my doorbell to tell me the house next door was on fire,” Wilson said. “I said, ‘You’re kidding,’ and went outside. I grabbed the hose. I was trying, but it didn’t do much good. I did what I could do."
Eddie Johns, who lives on Beaver Pond, is the backyard neighbor who knocked on Wilson’s door. Twin Lakes is on the north side of Bloomingdale Avenue, where it dead-ends to the east.
“I just happened to look out the window to see if it was raining, and that’s when I saw a small fire on the patio,” Johns said, noting that the flames reached about 5 feet. “It was big enough that I couldn’t put it out. It was popping."
Johns said he called 911 to report the fire but does not recall the exact time. He then ran to knock on the Baldwins' door to ensure no one was home, then knocked on Wilson’s door.
“Once it got started, the fire took off,” Johns said. “By the time I knocked on (Wilson’s) door the fire was already billowing out the sides.”
Baldwin was surrounded by family members long after the fire trucks left. Investigators remained on the scene, sifting through the burnt house and household items for clues as to what caused the fire.
“It’s devastating,” said Robnett, Linda Baldwin’s sister-in-law. What will get the family through its ordeal, she added, is “the grace of God."