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House destroyed by fire in North Fort Myers, family displaced

A fire tore through a house in North Fort Myers early Friday morning, leaving two parents and their 18-year-old without a home just ahead of Christmas.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office captured video of the flames engulfing the home on Washington Drive around 12:20 a.m. The North Fort Myers Fire District was able to put the fire out before 1 a.m., but the house had been gutted, leaving only charred remains.

One dog made it out with the family, three of the other pets did not survive.

The fire was caused by a heat lamp on the family’s back porch.

Linda Stefanosky didn’t see the fire that burned down her son’s home. But she got that call that no parent ever wants to get.

Then, she raced to his North Fort Myers neighborhood. “I came here as fast as I could to find Michelle and the ambulance and my son watching the house burn down,” said Stefanosky.

The fire was still blazing as she arrived, and now the house is completely gone. She says many memories, good and bad, burned up in that home.

“Me and my late husband got married here in the backyard. He’s since passed away in 2012,” said Linda. “My son had cancer here also passed away in 2007 so and now this. There’s a lot of Christmases, a lot of joy and laughter and love.”

Linda’s son Marvin, his girlfriend, Michelle and her 18-year-old daughter Rayne aren’t really sure what’s next for their family.

Rayne is on the Autism spectrum. Kaitlyn Terrell is Michelle’s goddaughter. She also raced to the scene and helped Rayne understand and cope with the fact that she lost everything.

“That’s what upset her the most all her stuff is gone she had her own playroom all those things are gone. The tablet she uses to communicate that’s gone,” said Terrell.

While the house did burn completely, another one of Michelle’s daughters, Brittany Gillis, says he’s just happy that her mom is still with her.

“I know she’s upset because there were a lot of sentimental things she kept from our childhood and all that. She’s very upset about that and I keep telling her and everyone I’m just glad you’re alive,” Gillis said.

Linda says she’s glad her son is still here, too. She’s dealt with enough death and she couldn’t handle another. “I couldn’t really handle another death in my life. My husband and my son are both gone and to lose my son would have been devastating to me,” Stefanosky said.

The family still has each other. and friends they didn’t know existed. The North Fort Myers Fire Department stopped by with gift cards and toys for Michelle’s granddaughter. They also received some financial help from The Red Cross and donations from neighbors.

Gillis, Rayne’s sister says this support means the world to their family. “Big community behind us everyone is coming together and helping us out because it’s very traumatizing,” Gillis said.

Despite the fire, the family has hope this holiday season.

Reporter:Zach Oliveri
Writer:Drew Hill
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