LAKELAND (FOX 13) - All it took was a single spark and Paula Simpson’s home on beautiful Scott Lake is gone. She and her family were grilling when the unexpected happened: A spark from the grill hit a nearby palm tree and it caught fire.
Soon, the entire house was up in flames. “It’s devastating,” she told FOX 13.
Her dad and other family members built the home, board by board, more than 40 years ago. It was such a stunning and unusual house that it was featured in a 2014 issue of “Lakelander Magazine.”
The spread was called Passport to Polynesia because the home was so open to the environment. It had two-story floor-to-ceiling glass windows that looked out on the lake, and outdoor walkways with exotic plants.
It appears that the perfect storm was brewing Tuesday night. It has been incredibly dry for months. The tropical foliage that made it so charming was just a stone’s throw away from the grill.
“We figured that there was a spark that went into those palms down there. They’re rhapis palms, and they just – whoosh -- went like that,” Simpson explained.
The fire raged for several hours.
“When this thing caved in, it sounded like a bomb blowing up,” recalled Simpson’s son-in-law, Carson Brawley.
In the charred aftermath, Simpson has this advice for anyone who grills this time of year.
You need to watch it the whole time,” she said. And just in case of trouble, “you need to have a hose to put it out.”