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Fla. firefighters repair roof damaged by hurricane

Firefighter Felix Marquez and a team of responders remove rotted wood from Bob Thomas’ roof and replaced it with sturdy plywood


By Lisa Maria Garza
Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO — About a dozen off-duty and retired Orlando firefighters worked together on Sunday to repair the roof of a Carver Shores neighborhood home that was heavily damaged last year by Hurricane Irma.

When firefighter Felix Marquez arrived Saturday at Bob Thomas’ house on the 5200 block of Lanette Street to install a free smoke detector, the 70-year-old resident was dragging a heavy piece of plywood in his front yard.

The 13-year fire department veteran noticed a weathered blue tarp flapping on Thomas’ roof and discovered mold inside the residence from several months of water leaks.

Marquez and a retired firefighter spent $3,500 of their own money to buy supplies and gathered the team of first responders to remove the rotted wood from Thomas’ roof and replace it with sturdy plywood.

“It broke my heart,” said Marquez, 47. “I sent a text out to my [OFD] brothers, shared the story and they all said ‘We’re in.’ ”

After Irma, Thomas said the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied him aid because part of the damage existed before the storm. He had been slowly trying to patch the roof to stop the leaks.

“Irma came along, and I did my best to try to cover this thing and secure it,” Thomas said. “It was tough — I saw water in places that I couldn’t even believe. The winds were very powerful.”

Thomas, a widower, bought the house in 1987, and mostly lives alone. A longtime friend stays with him occasionally and was trying to help him repair the roof on Saturday.

“They were there hours, trying to lift this one piece of wood; that’s as far as they got,” Marquez said.

Marquez was part of a team of firefighters going door-to-door with the American Red Cross to install free smoke detectors for residents in the neighborhood after the fatal July 8 fire on Lescot Lane that trapped 8-year-old Syiah Johnson in her home.

Johnson’s grandmother, 60-year-old Ingrid Howard, died a few days later from severe burns she sustained trying to rescue the girl from the burning house.

On Sunday afternoon, Thomas watched as the firefighters worked in sync to hammer the boards in place.

“There’s no way I could have done all this stuff they’ve done so far,” Thomas said. “It means a whole lot, all I can say is — ‘Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.’ ”

Although Marquez and the volunteer crew temporarily secured Thomas’ roof, it will need to be replaced and the mold inside the house must be removed.

Anyone who would like to help Thomas can contact the Orlando Fire Department at or 407-246-FIRE.

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