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Fire truck struck at scene of blaze

A driver with a stolen car loses control as a fire engine douses a lingerie modeling club fire.

By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 2, 2002

TAMPA -- As firefighters battled a blaze at a lingerie modeling club Tuesday night, a 16-year-old driving a stolen Dodge Neon crashed into a fire engine that was pumping water into the burning building.

The teenage driver then tried to run from the wreck, said Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade, but rescue workers detained him until police arrived.

"Their first impression was that he was just a young man who was upset about being in the wreck," said Wade. "Then they realized, no, this guy is trying to take off from the wreck."

Firefighters were called to the small strip mall in the 8400 block of N Florida Avenue at about 5:45 p.m., just north of the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop.

The fire started inside Uptown, a private lingerie modeling business, said Wade. The business was closed when the fire broke out. Firefighters later discovered that someone inside Uptown left a lamp lighted that had a piece of linen draped over it. The linen was put there to "darken the room and set the mood," said Wade.

As firefighters tried to keep the fire from spreading into the other businesses in the strip mall -- a clothing boutique, an insurance company, a rent-to-own-center and used-piano store -- a car came screaming onto Florida Avenue from Wood Street. Witnesses said it struck a Nissan Maxima and kept going.

"The car jumped the median, jumped the curb and hit the side of the engine," said district Chief Charles Brown. "It was like something you see on TV. It was like, did this really happen?"

Fire Engine No. 11 was parked in the strip mall's parking lot, said Brown, and out of the path of traffic when it was hit from the rear.

"If it would have been five seconds earlier, (people) would have been in the midst of (the crash)," said Brown.

The woman driving the Nissan Maxima suffered back injuries.

When the teen got out of the car, rescue workers saw that there were no keys in the ignition. The teen said he had found the car running and "just got in," Brown said.

The teen, whose name was not released because of his age, was arrested by Tampa police. Charges were unavailable Thursday night.

The Neon was totaled. Engine No. 11 sustained minor damage and will remain in service. The lingerie modeling business and three other stores suffered $20,000 in losses, officials said.

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