Two private residences on Kingfisher Drive on North Captiva were destroyed by fire Sunday morning and three others damaged according to North Captiva Fire Chief Richard Pepper.
"We will never be able to determine the exact cause due to the total destruction of the home," said Lt. Joe Minervini of the State Fire Marshal's office in Fort Myers.
Witnesses told authorities that the fire appeared to be ignited by an electrical generator at the three-story home of Mike Adams, 167 Kingfisher Dr. The Adams family escaped the blaze through the rear of the home with just the clothes on their back, Pepper said.
Firefighters had to contend with a strong wind and reported gusts up to 30 mph. Adams' home eventually collapsed upon itself and burned to the ground. The home next door was a total loss from exposure to the intense heat and flames that spread from the Adams residence. Pepper said a third home across the street sustained $40,000-$50,000 in damage, another structure had damage to the siding and the cedar roof on another home a quarter-mile away caught fire and was extinguished by neighbors.
A mutual aid alert went out countywide bringing fire personnel and equipment to the scene, which is only accessible by boat or small plane. Agencies from Pine Island, Matlacha, Boca Grande, Captiva, Sanibel, Cape Coral and several other departments responded.
"There was a power outage in the neighborhood earlier, which would have caused the generators on the island to kick on," said Pepper, "but the power was back on when the fire started. The fire burned for 10 to 12 minutes before fire dispatch was notified. Witnesses said they made 911 calls, but the first connection to dispatch came at 9:17 a.m. It only took about five minutes for us to get there after that."
Pepper said alternative building materials used in the Adams structure may have intensified the blaze.
"It looks like the synthetic decking material helped the fire spread quickly," said Pepper. "The front of the home was fully involved when we got there, but the family escaped."
Pepper said four firefighters, including himself, suffered from smoke inhalation. Only one firefighter was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment and later released.
Witnesses told State Fire Marshal detective Ed Blanco that the flames appeared to start in the area where the generator and AC compressor was located. His investigation continues without a cause determination.