By Ryan Mills
The Naples Daily News
NAPLES, Fla. — A fire destroyed a Golden Gate Estates home Friday afternoon and hospitalized two firefighters with heat exhaustion.
Around 12:30 p.m., a postal carrier delivering mail on Third Avenue Southwest alerted authorities about the blaze after seeing heavy smoke coming from a garage at the end of the road, Golden Gate Assistant Fire Chief Nolan Sapp said.
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Firefighters arrived minutes later and began searching the home at 4675 Third Ave. S.W.
"Initially we had reports of an elderly lady that could be inside the structure," Sapp said.
Eventually, after a second search of the home, it was determined there were no people or pets inside.
Wes Wilson, who lives next door, was in Naples when the fire started and received a call from a neighbor warning him about the blaze. When Wilson arrived home around 1:15 p.m., he said the house next door was "in flames."
After determining his house was safe, Wilson attempted to reach his neighbors, Ed and Rosalind Mathews, a handyman and a teacher, who own the home that was on fire.
"They got here and saw the house up in flames," Wilson said. "They were upset like anybody would be."
It took more than an hour for firefighters from Golden Gate, North Naples and Big Corkscrew to get the blaze under control, Sapp said. The Collier County Sheriff’s Office and Collier County EMS assisted at the scene.
At one point firefighters had to be pulled from inside the home for their safety.
"The fire burned with such intensity through the attic area ... the integrity of the trusses was compromised," Sapp said.
Many of the firefighters had just finished battling a kitchen fire that burned into an attic on 23rd Court in Golden Gate when they received the call about the fire on Third Avenue Southwest. By 3 p.m., as the fire was winding down and smoke was wafting from inside, a group of firefighters gathered on the grass, dumping water and Gatorade down their gullets.
Two firefighters were hospitalized because of heat exhaustion, Sapp said.
"You have the high heat inside. You have the high humidity. You have the fire that was burning," Sapp said. "You compound all that together."
Sapp said the house is a total loss. The cause of the blaze, which appears to have started in the garage, is under investigation.© 2008 The E.W. Scripps Co.