Tommy Farmer stood across the street from his family home at 119 S. Love Street in Quincy and stared in disbelief at the intense fire shooting out of the rear of the home. Flames, as if playing hide and seek, occasionally showed under the roof of the front of the house.
“That’s the house where I was born,” Farmer said quietly to no one in particular. He said the family moved into the frame structure in 1948. It became the family home for the late Rev. George Farmer and his wife, the late Emma Farmer. The Farmers reared 11 children in the home and several grandchildren.
“We used to call it Farmers’ Hotel because so many people stayed there. It was not just family, but other relatives and friends of family often spent the night. When some of my brothers married, they brought their wives home, so it was definitely an extended family,” said Mary Farmer Bailey.
The Farmer home was one of the two houses that burned Valentine’s Day evening. Both were a total loss, resulting in more than $170,000 in loss of property and contents. The initial fire started next door to the Farmer home at 115 S. Love Street.
The initial call came to 911 Dispatch at 7:13 p.m., and the first fire engine arrived on scene to 115 S. Love Street at 7:19 p.m. That dwelling was occupied by Darrell Farmer, but owned by Sharon Douglas of Tampa.
According to a report released by the Quincy Fire Department, Farmer told fire personnel this is what happened:
“Farmer said he built a fire in the fireplace and went to the back porch to fix and eat a couple of sandwiches. No protective barrier was placed in front of the fireplace. After 10 to 12 minutes Farmer said he smelled smoke and opened the door to find one of the logs had rolled out of the fireplace and had spread fire to some nearby wood he had placed in the room. He closed the door and went to retrieve a bucket of water to put out the fire. When he (re)opened the door he felt extreme heat on his face and body and threw the water in the direction of the fire. He then went to the neighbor’s house at 119 South Love Street and alerted them that of the fire and they got out. Mr. Farmer stated that the fire spread so fast in about 30-45 seconds the entire house was on fire. The house at 115 S. Love Street and the house at 119 S. Love Street were a total loss and the house at 123 S. Love Street sustained water damage only,” the report stated.
The cause of the fire was determined to be accidental.
A slight wind and the proximity of the houses to each other, approximately 5 feet, caused the house at 119 S. Love to catch fire from the flames next door. Firefighters were unable to save the structure as flames leaped from one house to another. The house at 123 S. Love was saved, but there was minor water damage to the walls, ceiling, sofa and carpet.
The house at 115 S. Love Street burned to the ground. Nothing, not even a shell of the former house, was left standing the following morning. Still smoldering embers emitted smoke as firefighters sifted through the rubble for hot spots.
Quincy Fire Chief Howard Smith said nothing could be done to save the Farmer home because the heat was so intense. One of the Quincy firefighters suffered thigh burns from the intensity of the heat, which burned through the legs of his protective clothing.
“Right now we’re still dealing with the insurance company, so I don’t know what we’re going to do. Other family members are very upset, and they’ve been calling a lot. It’s like a piece of you is gone, all the memories we shared in that house. And anytime someone came back for the holidays or just to visit, there was always a place to stay that we all called home,” Farmer-Bailey said.
Local volunteer firefighters from Wetumpka and Gretna also responded to the fire with two fire trucks and six men.
The Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted in determining the cause of the fire.