Action 9

Homeowners blame utility company for fire that left them homeless

COCOA, Fla. — A couple of Brevard County veterans blame Florida Power & Light for a fire that burned them out of their home.

The fire sparked in late June at their home on Western Avenue. They have been living in extended stay hotels since then without any help from the power company.

Tara and Robert Rollins showed Action 9 photos of the aftermath. They said the fire is something they will never forget.

Robert described how his wife woke him up, “She says, ‘Robert, we’re on fire.’ And I woke up, shook myself and I said ‘Fire?’ and she says ‘Yes, we’re on fire.’”

When Tara looked out the window she saw flames roaring on the side of their home on Western Avenue near Cocoa. They grabbed their dog and ran outside.

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Robert said, “Actually the fire was burning over our heads while we sat in there in the house. It was already burning over our heads.”

Robert pointed to holes in the ceiling, water damage in the home and the tarp covering his roof. So far, no repairs have been made.

The public adjuster for the Rollins family, David Shoeman, said Florida Power & Light is to blame because to him, it appears electricity arced from the FPL powerlines into the cable lines leading into their home and the home next door.

Action 9 asked if he had any doubt FPL was at fault. Shoeman answered, “I don’t have any doubts. As an expert opinion, I have no doubts about it.”

A report from Brevard County Fire Rescue shows, “both affected homes had active fire in and around the cable boxes.” The report also showed at the scene, “FPL secured power at transformer to the street due to electrical hazard that was presented to several structures from a down power line.”

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Tara Rollins said, “As far as FPL, they have not provided us anything to sustain us. Everything we have done is out of pocket.

The home is paid for and wasn’t insured. Tara and Robert claim FPL has offered them $35,0000, but their public adjuster believes the true cost to fix the damage will be much higher.

Shoeman said, “I’m easily seeing over six figures worth of damage.” He pointed to smoke damage, the need for mold tests, the cost of materials and labor plus extra living expenses.

“That is going to be you know, obviously considered when it comes down to a hotel, the fees. They can’t cook food in their home anymore. They have to go out and eat,” he told Action 9.

An FPL spokesman sent this statement:

FPL takes all claims very seriously and carefully investigates the specifics of each case. Each claim is evaluated on its own merit and handled according to the facts and circumstances in each situation. That said, while we are actively engaged in the claims process, I am unable to discuss the specifics of this case due to our privacy policy regarding customer information.

Meanwhile, the Rollins family has relied on a GoFundMe page and Robert’s Social Security-Disability checks to get by. They said they’re growing weary of living out of an extended stay hotel and hoping FPL will help them to get back into their home soon.

Tara said, “We’re just over it and they need to take responsibility. And when I say responsibility, I mean full responsibility by just taking care of the people that you have displaced.”

The couple told Action 9, they now plan to sue because talks with FPL aren’t going anywhere.

Link to GoFundMe: Fundraiser by Tara Rollins : Displaced family of veterans from house fire (

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal,

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

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