Inspectors give ruling on cause of Punta Gorda condo fire in March

Reporter: Justin Kase Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:
The fire in Punta Gorda that destroyed eight townhouses. (CREDIT: CHARLOTTE COUNTY FIRE & EMS)

Inspectors officially ruled the cause of the fire in Punta Gorda that destroyed seven homes four months ago as undetermined.

Neighbors have been hoping to learn what caused the fire that destroyed seven townhomes at the Emerald Pointe Community back in March. The burned shell of peoples’ homes is still there four months later.

Ozzie Morales called the townhouse pictured below home before selling it just months before the fire. “Memories come back and, you know, it’s not a good thing,” Morales said.

Ozzie Morales’s home he sold just months before the fire. (CREDIT: WINK News)

“It’s unbelievable they weren’t able to determine what it was, you know. But right now, that doesn’t really matter now that they’re going to have to rebuild,” Morales said. “And these people that lost everything they had over there. These are the people that we have to be concerned with.”

Investigators say the extensive fire damage made it impossible to determine how the fire started.

“Oh, you’ll never forget that. You’ll never forget that,” Morales said. “And how fast that fire just drove in a burned the rest of the units.”

Neighbors, like Riesa de Beer, are disappointed they won’t learn what started the fire, saying they hoped it would bring closure. “They can’t move forward. It’s like they’re just stuck in some kind of like awful location,” de Beer said. “They can’t move forward. They can’t get closure. They can’t wrap it up. They’re just looking at this.”

And the neighbors who lost everything remain on their minds. “You just feel for them. I happen to know Mitch was a full-time resident here and he lost everything,” de Beer said. “Him and his wife lost everything and it just breaks your heart for them.”

WINK News spoke with the family of a couple who was living in the area when the fire started. We’re told they are still working with the insurance companies trying to get back on their feet.

Niel Purtell, the President of the Emerald Point Condo Association said, “they got the full payout from the insurance companies.”

The HOA couldn’t demolish the building because the insurance company would not let it be demolished while it was being investigated.

The HOA also increased the insurance policy coverage hours before the fire started.

Purtell said the building could be demolished as early as Wednesday. And a vote on rebuilding could happen as early as a couple of weeks.

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