Boy escapes burning home after father goes to IHOP

A west Cocoa man left his 7-year-old son home alone with burning candles after midnight while he went to IHOP — and their house caught fire and burned down, investigators say.

About 12:25 a.m. Sunday, a candle in the boy's bedroom ignited a fire that tore through Hill's house on Denton Circle, said Amelia Hitchcock, a State Fire Marshal's Office investigator.

By the time firefighters arrived at the residential street just southeast of Interstate 95 and State Road 520, the house was fully engulfed in flame, said Lee Nessel, Brevard County Fire Rescue spokeswoman.

The 7-year-old fled the blaze on foot, looking for help and trying to find his father, Hitchcock said. A Brevard County Sheriff's Office deputy picked up the boy while he was walking to a Kangaroo gas station.

His father, Richard Hill, 34, was arrested by the State Fire Marshal's Office about 2 a.m. while he was walking back home from IHOP.

Hill was charged with child neglect, and his bond was set at $2,000 at the Brevard County Jail Complex.

"Do not leave your 7-year-old child home alone. Make sure there's proper supervision if you're using a candle," Hitchcock said.

The family had been using candles to generate light since Friday because their electricity was shut off, she said.

The home's roof partially collapsed during the fire, and the structure was declared a total loss, Nessel said.

Florida Department of Children and Families workers released the boy to the custody of Hill's girlfriend, Hitchcock said. The DCF investigation ongoing remains ongoing.

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