• Last modified 407 days ago (April 13, 2023)


Fire consumes everything: Rural Tampa couple loses home, barn, even a family cat

Staff writer

Linda Nazeck was wearing her father’s white Ford Tough T-shirt, his plaid pajama bottoms, and an ambulance driver’s shoes Thursday.

A fire the day before took everything — she and her husband’s home, barn, outbuildings, and nearly all of their belongings.

Linda woke up smelling smoke at 3 a.m. last Wednesday at her home on 330th Rd. west of Tampa.

“It didn’t register. But I thought I better look out,” she said.

She saw glowing orange flames.

“I got my husband up,” she said. “We went out the front door, and I called 911.”

She grabbed her phone but forgot her glasses, which were sitting on the same nightstand.

Steve and Linda Nazeck lost their 1915 home, a barn for Linda’s rescue horses and donkeys, a garden shed, and her father’s 1976 Ford F150.

Flames didn’t reach dead cedar trees not far from where they’d been asleep. Linda is grateful they slept with their bedroom door closed. The outcome for them likely would have been different. Smoke was everywhere.

Fortunately, none of their five dogs or horses and donkeys died. The horse barn fell on water troughs, melting them, but the horses and donkeys escaped.

Chris Mercer from the state fire marshal’s office has determined the fire started in the barn, but he has not yet determined a cause. He said Monday it was not because of controlled burns. An insurance investigator was expected to come out this week to look at the property.

Despite a double hip replacement, Steve Nazeck was able to crawl over a double fence to rescue their five dogs. Frightened, they gathered together in a pen.

“He’s a hero,” Linda said. “He had the heart to do it.

“Both my husband and I were in our pajamas and socks. I never thought in a million years I’d have a fire.”

She knows for sure that one cat — Trisha, named for Trisha Yearwood — died. Firefighters brought the cat’s body to her.

“I buried her,” she said. “I had a miracle kitty just show up today — Cali.”

On Tuesday, she still was unsure of the fate of two other cats.

Conway is missing, and so is Shania. She figures they were hiding under a bed and died.

Linda praised firefighters from Tampa, Ramona, Herington, Lost Springs, and Lincolnville for their response.

“They had truck after truck after truck,” she said. “I think the Marion County sheriff was the first to arrive.”

The American Red Cross gave the couple a debit card to use for necessities. Others have offered blankets and coats. A men’s group at Morning Star Mennonite Church in Durham has volunteered to clear the property. Linda and Steve plan to make a donation for the church’s mission work, she said.

A clinical social worker for Ft. Riley’s soldier recovery unit, she was calm and collected Thursday. The Nazecks bought their land and home in 2018. They had looked for years for just the right property at a price they could afford.

Before moving to the area, the couple rented property in Woodbine and before that, in Manhattan. Linda commutes to her job. Steve is a substitute teacher and semi-retired.

“Land in our price range is really difficult to find,” she said. “We just lucked out.”

They will rebuild, but they won’t be able to replace the home.

“It had the most interesting arches because it was so European. It had a dome with a ball on top,” she said. “It was just a unique house.”

It featured wood floors, interesting architectural details, and beautiful original woodwork. The previous owners, Walt and Iona Dietrich, built an addition and “did a wonderful job with it,” Linda said.

The Dietrichs had added a family room over the attached garage. A sunroom and deck rounded out the home.

Firefighters used backhoes to knock down the house, which still was burning Thursday.

Linda would love to know more about who built the home and its history.

The couple has found a nearby place to rent. County commissioner David Mueller has agreed to rent them his mother’s home.

Linda’s brother from Pennsylvania and her nephew will help build a shelter for the horses and donkeys.

So much needs to be done. On Friday, Linda was securing a rental car.

“One thing at a time,” she said.

Last modified April 13, 2023