Lake Okeechobee News/Nancy Wills
The mobile home on the corner lot in Jim’s Place burst into flames on Thursday, Feb. 7.
OKEECHOBEE — A structure fire broke out around 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7, in the 4100 block of U.S. 441 Southeast at Jim’s Place, a mobile home park.
Neighbors looked on as the fire raged and black smoke billowed across the road into traffic — several ran across the highway to distance themselves from the flames. Okeechobee County sheriff’s deputies quickly arrived on scene and began dispersing onlookers and redirecting traffic. FPL arrived and disconnected electrical service to the structure itself.
Kimberly Stallings, one of the residents of the mobile home, reported that she was taking a shower when the fire first began and smelled the very strong odor of smoke, causing her to immediately exit the shower. From there she encountered the spare bedroom on the east side of the structure that was fully engulfed in flames and heading in her direction. Ms. Stallings thought her husband, James Ball, was in the home. Mr. Ball, who is also the maintenance man, was at a neighbor’s house across the street. After realizing she was alone, Ms. Stallings grabbed a towel and her phone and ran out the door, yelling for her husband.
Once Mr. Ball realized what was happening, he attempted to run back into the burning structure to retrieve Ms. Stallings’ purse, but flames shot out toward him.
The fire was extinguished and no one was harmed. The cause of ignition was determined to be accidental. The two residents believe it may have been the AC compressor or the water heater.
Ms. Stalling and Mr. Ball lost everything they owned in the fire, save for a photo album that had been badly burned on the outside but held a few unharmed photos on the inside. The American Red Cross was deployed to help the residents if they were to need shelter, but the park landlord put them into another unit.
“The good Lord saved me,” Ms. Stalling said. “A church brought clothes, dishes and pictures.” The church she referred to is The Church of God of Prophecy of Okeechobee. The Moose Club also donated some items.
“I want to thank everyone that helped,” Ms. Stalling went on. “It means a lot. It means the world to me.”
She has set up a gofundme page, and if you would like to make a donation, visit gofundme.com/6unsysg