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Family flees after flaming bottle flies into window

No one is hurt, but damage to the apartment totals $17,000. Investigators are searching for a suspect.

By AMY HERDY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 31, 2002


TAMPA -- By a stroke of luck, Teresa Hamilton was awake and on the phone when a bottle crashed through her apartment's bedroom window in the middle of the night and erupted in flames.

"The bottle broke and the gas (inside) sprayed the fire everywhere," Hamilton, 33, recalled of the 2:48 a.m. fire Wednesday at 3806 Jackson Court.

"All I could think about was getting my two girls."

Although the covers on the bed where her teenage daughter was sleeping caught fire, Hamilton managed to wake her and her 12-year-old daughter before anyone was hurt. Neighbors helped keep the flames from spreading with fire extinguishers, Hamilton said, until firefighters arrived and put out the blaze within 15 minutes. Damage was estimated at $17,000.

Outside, arson investigators found two more bottles they said were Molotov cocktails, bottles filled with a flammable liquid with a rag stuffed in the open top. Only one bottle was thrown into the residence, said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Bill Wade.

Wednesday night, Al Alcala of the Tampa Fire Marshal's Office said investigators were searching for an arson suspect who they believed had a grudge against Hamilton.

"It could have killed her," Alcala said.

The fact that Hamilton was awake and could react was a matter of timing, Wade said.

"It was just luck and a quick response from the fire department" that kept the situation under control, Wade said.

"You throw a flaming bomb into an apartment at 3 a.m. and you'll probably kill somebody."

Hamilton, who is now staying with a friend, said she wants to move.

"I'm scared," she said. "I don't feel safe."

-- Amy Herdy can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or herdy@sptimes.com.

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