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Homeowners left to start over after home destroyed in 36th Ave SE fire

Crews continue to work to control a massive fire that’s burned 8,663 acres in Collier County and remains at 60% containment Monday.

The 36th Avenue SE fire in Golden Gate Estates has destroyed a dozen homes.

We spoke to one of the community members who lost their home to the fire and wonders what’s next.

”I don’t have a home,” Steve Wilson said. “I’m lost.”

It’s a hopeless feeling in the backwoods of Collier County after a fast-moving fire ravaged a private road and left Wilson’s yard a war zone.

“The whole road was in flames on both the canal and both sides,” Wilson said.

Evacuations began Wednesday. And, although firefighters are still putting out hot spots, they hope more rain will finally put an end to the 36th Avenue SE fire.

”I thought I need to get to the house to get some clothes and medicine and some other stuff, my safe with my paperwork in it,” Wilson said. “I drove through fire in the front yard, and it was like I’m not stopping’.”

Now a pile of broken drywall, metal and debris where Wilson used to live with his roommate, Mike Christensen, is what remains.

“He’s 66, and I’m 62,” Wilson said. “And we both have health issues.”

Christensen has had two strokes and a heart transplant. Now, the house he’s lived in for 40 years is nothing but charred rubble.

“They literally had to put him in a vehicle to get him out,” Wilson said. “He was going to stay here and die.”

“Two guys came over and drug me out,” Christensen said.

Thankfully, good neighbors and friends have helped these two find shelter.

“They’ll build me a small house, hopefully … if we get enough money together,” Christensen said.

But, right now, their lives have been turned upside down.

”Everything is replaceable,” Wilson said. “But, when you get to our age, how do you start over?”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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