ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. – A man and a dog were found dead Sunday after St. Johns County deputies and firefighters responded to reports of smoke coming from a home on Winward Way, between Mizel Road and State Road A1A.
A neighbor and her 21-year-old son were returning from the grocery store when they saw the smoke.
“We didn’t even park the car," Dana Wilkins said. "We just threw the car in park in the middle of the car and immediately got out of our car and noticed the smoke coming out of the roof of the house and my son went to the door and started pounding on the door.”
Wilkins, a retired federal agent, called 911. First responders arriving within minutes. When they also didn’t get answers at either the front door or at the sliding glass door at the back, firefighters forced their way inside.
Rescuers pulled a man and a large dog from the house, but they could not be revived. The man was identified as 57-year-old Vernon Savage.
Wilkins said Savage and his wife Tami owned the house but he didn’t always stay there, so they were heartbroken when his body was brought out. Deputies listed a Fleming Island address for Savage.
“My son and I are still traumatized,” she said.
Next-door neighbor Allan Schaefer said Savage was friendly and courteous and he’s upset he had to die this way.
“You couldn’t find a better neighbor,” Schaefer said. “His wife was nice. I met his daughter and the son-in-law.”
St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Robert Hardwick said there are no signs of criminal intent, so it appears to be an accident. The state fire marshal is looking to see if an electrical issue caused the fire.