Man escapes burning house

PORT CHARLOTTE -- The house at 22126 Sherry Ave. burned so fiercely Tuesday morning that plants in a garden about 20 feet away were seared from the heat. So homeowner Selwyn Parkins, the only person in the home at the time, was lucky to escape alive.

Bob Carpenter, public information officer with the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, said Parkins, a native of Haiti, told the following story:

Parkins was awakened shortly before 4 a.m. by a knock at the door. When he opened it, two masked men forced their way in.

The men shut Parkins in the garage. After a few minutes, he smelled smoke, opened the garage door and fled the home. He came back later to find the house engulfed in flames, and Charlotte County Fire & EMS fighting the blaze.

The fire was visible throughout the area, neighbors said. No one was injured, but the house and furnishings were a total loss. Only a lawn tractor and a few pieces of hardware survived the blaze.

Parkins' wife, Lillian, was reportedly out of the country. His story could not be confirmed, Carpenter said, but the Sheriff's Office Major Crimes division is investigating the break-in while the State Fire Marshal's Office plumbs the cause of the fire.

The Charlotte County Chapter of the American Red Cross is helping Parkins, according to executive director Margarie Van Sickel, by providing him with shelter, food, clothing and replacement eyeglasses. He was not injured.

Anyone with any information on the incident is encouraged to call the Sheriff's Office at (941) 639-2101.

You can e-mail Malcolm Brenner at [email protected]