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RV park fire victims receive support

February 13, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A vacationing Canadian family that lost nearly all of their traveling possessions in a fire involving their mobile home at Red Coconut RV Park last Thursday morning are coping and making the best of an unfortunate situation nearly one week later,

Quebec residents Fernand and Diane Boutin along with their daughter are staying in an unoccupied, on-site trailer that was generously offered by a neighbor in the RV park. The Boutins have also received money, refrigerator items and clothing from neighbor collections.

"I don't think the fire was out yet while residents were busy trying to identify what sizes they were so that could take up a collection of clothes immediately," said Red Coconut RV Park assistant manager Laurie Albion. "By the end of the evening, those residents had raised $1,200 for them."

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Fort Myers Beach Fire rescue teams put out a fire that was reportedly started from a ruptured fuel line in the Advanced Disposal Services garbage truck and then ignited the RV vehicle next to it. No one was seriously hurt.

Albion said that while the Boutins lost their passports in the blaze, they were able to recover their wallets that included their driver's licenses and one or two charred credit cards. Thus, with identification and a police report, they are able to drive across the border when they finish their vacation. Diane's keys that held a flash drive of her latest novel was also recovered.

"That was five years worth of work," said Albion.

On Saturday, the Red Coconut Club held a garage sale and donated all proceeds ($1,400) from the event. All told, monetary contributions total $2,600.

"People have been incredible about dropping stuff off. They have so much stuff right now that they really don't need any more donated items," said Albion.

Among the donated items was a wheelchair from the Church of the Ascension for the Boutin's daughter. The Boutin's insurance company also supplied a lost electronic computer for the wheelchair the day after the fire.

"People have been absolutely amazing by stepping up and supporting them," said Albion. "I think the community should be very proud of that."

Contributions came after a garbage truck caught fire at Red Coconut RV Park last Thursday morning and ignited the Boutins parked RV vehicle next to it.

Luckily, no one from the two vehicles was harmed. The Boutins escaped from their mobile home just minutes before the flames from the garbage truck reached it.

The Fort Myers Beach Fire District responded to the fire at 8:15 a.m. on Feb. 7. The fire moved to the engine, which then ignited the RV vehicle and burned it to its core.

"The fire was ruled accidental in nature. We think it was probably a mechanical failure with the hydraulic line that occurred, but we cannot say definitively until we have further information from the insurance company after their investigation," said Capt. Ron Martin when reached on Monday.

According to Martin, total damage of both vehicles and contests of the RV was assessed at approximately $500,000. An environmental impact estimate could not be provided at this time.

The garbage truck, which was on its morning round and near full capacity, was actively burning for roughly four hours. The company is owned by Advanced Disposal Services, formerly known as Veolia Environmental Services.

"We were having issues getting into the deep-seated fire in the contents area of the truck," said Martin.

Though Station #31 is right next door to the RV park, the fire fighter crew there was out responding to a 7:45 a.m. call about a motor vehicle accident at the corner of Chapel Street and Estero Boulevard.

According to Town of Fort Myers Beach records, Town Maintenance Coordinator Mark LaFave was struck by a vehicle while operating the street sweeper on Estero Boulevard causing the Town vehicle to flip onto its side. LaFave was transported to the hospital and released later in the day.

"Battalion 30 engine crew noticed a large column of smoke when they were clearing the previous call," said Martin.

The chief from Battalion 30 was first on the fire scene at 8:13 a.m. He was followed by his crew shortly after.

"It could have been a lot worse because the close proximity of the units here," said Martin. "We could have had two or three more units burning. Our guys made an aggressive attack and a great stop."

Neighbor reports say the flame reached as high as 30 feet when the explosion first occurred.

Red Coconut RV Park Fran Myers was stuck in traffic off island when she heard the news.

"We were very lucky," she said.



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