What was originally reported as a car fire that spread into a home on the 600 block of Dundee Lane also turned out to be a case of a man who couldn’t find his way home and crashed into a garage on a street near his home.
“The car that caught fire was not at his own home,” said West Manatee Fire Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal Jim Davis. “He was actually supposed to be on the next street over. It starts with an ‘e.’” — Emerald Lane.
Guillermo Escobar of Emerald Lane in Holmes Beach was found observing the fire by emergency officials who responded in the early morning hours of Dec. 15, according to a Holmes Beach Police Department report.
Escobar told police he had been confused when he parked his 2008 Lexus in the driveway on Dundee Lane. The report also said he fell asleep for a time.
A police officer noted a “large concave indentation … indicating the point of impact where the engulfed vehicle may have struck the garage door.”
When questioned by HBPD, Escobar said he woke up and realized he was not at his house, so he attempted to pull out of the driveway. But instead of putting his car in reverse, he put it in drive and crashed into the garage door, according to the report.
Escobar told police he noticed a spark at the front end of the car after the crash, just before the car was consumed by fire.
Escobar said he smoked but did not smoke in his car, according to the police report. The report also said he would not make a statement about being behind the wheel of the vehicle before it was in the driveway.
“Escobar appeared to be very intoxicated,” according to another HBPD officer’s report. “I smelled a very strong odor of alcohol coming from his person. He was very unsteady on his feet, and slurred his words.”
Interim Police Chief Dale Stephenson said HBPD made no arrest because the driving under the influence law requires evidence that “puts him behind the wheel driving.”
“The individual refused to acknowledge he was behind the wheel of the car,” he said.
According to WMFR, the fire resulted in a complete loss to the car.
No one was injured. The two occupants of the Dundee Lane home and two cats were evacuated during the event.
The department extinguished the fire shortly after arriving on the scene at 3 a.m. with two fire trucks and one engine, according to WMFR Battalion Chief Richard Jasinski.
Frances Derr, one of the homeowners, said four of her six smoke alarms woke her and her husband. She exited the front of her house and saw a woman in a car, who apparently was delivering newspapers, and a man who would not talk to her watching the fire.
Derr said the fire damaged their two cars and reported extensive smoke damage throughout her house. She also said investigators asked her questions to determine why the car caught fire when it hit the garage.
The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of State Fire Marshal is handling the investigation, according to Davis. At press time for The Islander, the state office had not returned calls for comment.