Fire, explosions damage home in Mary Esther


Staff report

MARY ESTHER — A fire with explosions severely damaged a home on Caswell Circle late Saturday night while the residents were out of town.

The blaze was reported shortly before 10 p.m. at 12 Caswell Circle, and firefighters reported flames and smoke when they arrived. The fire was knocked down in about 15 minutes and was extinguished by about 10:30 p.m., Mary Esther Fire Chief Ron McArtor said as firefighters, Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputies and EMS crews lingered with neighbors at the scene.

McArtor said the explosions apparently were caused by liquid propane tanks used for a gas grill at the home.

No injuries were reported.

Homeowners Mae and Charles Hilliard were Gainesville when the fire broke out, said their daughter, Mechele Chatman, who learned of the fire while she was at work at Westwood retirement home.

“They left yesterday,” said Chatman, who also lived at the home.

The one-story brick house appeared to be gutted from the outside. McArtor said he would inspect the interior after firefighters finished checking for hot spots and the smoke cleared.

“It’s pretty significant damage,” he said. “There were some parts of the building that weren’t exposed to fire, but there was smoke and heat” damage, he said.

The cause of the blaze had not been determined late Saturday. McArtor said if he could not pinpoint the cause, he would call in the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

Crews from Fort Walton Beach, Ocean City-Wright and Okaloosa Island assisted Mary Esther firefighters at the scene.