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Ruskin family loses everything to trailer fire

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Published:   |   Updated: May 3, 2013 at 02:48 PM
RUSKIN -

When Scott Howe smelled smoke from electrical wiring late Saturday night, his neighbors came in to his trailer to help him find the source. His girlfriend, with their 5-month-old baby, got out and away.

Finding nothing, Martin Leonard Crenshaw II and his daughter, April, headed out the door. That’s when they saw the smoke coming from the roof of their own trailer next door. Right above the electrical panel. April, 14, called 911 while the two men grabbed garden hoses and attempted to extinguish what quickly became a raging fire.

In the end, the Crenshaws lost everything.

Wearing clothes purchased with a gift card from the Red Cross, the Crenshaws returned to their trailer in rural Ruskin this week to view what remained. Crenshaw’s sister, Bobbie Sue Zaugg, donned rubber gloves to sift through the ashes, coming up with little that could be salvaged.

“There’s nothing like the feeling of watching your own house burn down,” said April, who takes high school classes through the online Florida Virtual School. Her school computer and the rest of her belongings were destroyed in the blaze. “It was traumatizing. Very scary.”

“I don’t know what will happen now,” Martin Crenshaw said. “I have to figure it all out and get with (Department of) Children and Families. Red Cross is trying to help get me on a list for subsidized housing, but I don’t know how fast that will happen. And we could end up anywhere in the county.”

For now, he said, he’ll sleep on his mother’s floor, along with his daughter and son, Martin, 10.

Crenshaw, a disabled former school bus driver, said he had no insurance on the trailer he purchased and moved to the rural lot in 2007. “It’s all ruined. I thought maybe we could get something out of here,” he said, staring at the charred skeleton of his former home. “But, there’s really nothing to save.”

Very little from the house was even recognizable, it was burned so badly. Before the family returned, someone had been there and stripped copper wire from the electrical box Crenshaw believes caused the blaze.

Crenshaw said a Hillsborough County fire investigator told him that staples used to hold electrical wiring in place – something no longer allowed in Florida building codes - had corroded the wiring, which may have sparked the fire. But, officially, the cause of the fire has not been determined.


yhammett@tampatrib.com

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