A fire that gutted a Spring Hill home on Thursday has been ruled accidental, according to State Fire Marshal’s Office Spokeswoman Anna Alexopoulos.
“It is an ongoing investigation, so something could change with that,” Alexopoulos said Friday. “But at this point we are ruling it accidental.”
The house, at 4251 Dristol Ave., is home to Joey Berrios, 18, the Nature Coast student who was shot twice by a deputy in February.
Berrios and his grandfather were described by 911 callers as leaving the burning residence, according to the fire incident report.
About an hour later, with the fire under control, Berrios was handcuffed, placed in the backseat of a deputy’s patrol car and removed from the scene.
According to Berrios’ attorney, Peyton Hyslop, Berrios was Baker Acted.
“I have not heard whether he’s out (of the hospital) or not,” Hyslop said. “Apparently the combination of the stress of the fire, plus all the emergency personnel including officers pulling up got him to where it would be the best plan of action to make sure he was examined, and to make sure he was OK.”
Hyslop said he understands the Berrios family did not have homeowner’s insurance because of an apparent sinkhole issue with the home.
“If that’s accurate, they wouldn’t have anything for the fire to help cover that either,” he added.
The initial call came into dispatch at 2:26 p.m., and four minutes later, at 2:32 p.m., Hernando County Fire Rescue was on scene.
“For the most part, the house was a total loss, significant damage,” said Assistant Chief of Operations Kevin Carroll, who was also on scene. “(The fire) made pretty good headway through the attic. It was actually venting through the roof when our crew got there, so being just four minutes down the road the fire had a good head start.”
“Within minutes it was coming through the skylight, and for it to make it up the roof and up that far it had to have been burning for a while,” Carroll added.
Tampa Division Detective Hector Noyas, who is the fire marshal detective working the case, declined comment Friday, citing policy. Noyas was called in by Hernando County Fire Rescue at 3:22 p.m. and was on scene at 5:16 p.m.
“It was a suspicious fire, and we had to call the fire marshal because we didn’t know what started the fire,” Carroll said. “We do know it started in the back bedroom, but we don’t know how.”
Carroll said the State Fire Marshal’s Office has not yet reported back to the department concerning the investigation, and that there were no explosions reported during the course of the fire. Carroll also said he does not expect the remainder of the investigation to last very long.
“There are times the fire marshal has made a determination right there, and there’s times when, such as a fire from last year, that they’re still working on,” Carroll said. “I’d have to think with this one, after interviewing at least two of the family members that were there, that the investigator would have a determination relatively soon.”
Hernando County Sheriff’s Office says they are providing assistance in the State Fire Marshal’s investigation.