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Fire heavily damages apartment building roof

© St. Petersburg Times
published July 2, 2002

TAMPA -- A fire that tore through the roof of a two-story apartment building early Monday caused more than $165,000 in damage and forced about 20 residents from their homes.

The fire started in the Bentley Court Apartments just before 2 a.m., Tampa fire officials said. A pot left cooking on a stove apparently sparked the blaze.

One firefighter, Rigo Martinez, received a second-degree burn on his hand. He was treated and released from Tampa General Hospital. No one else was injured.

The apartment where the fire started was badly damaged. Apartments surrounding it had smoke and water damage, said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Bill Wade.

Wade said the bulk of the damage is in the roof of the building, where firefighters had to cut a large hole to stymie the flames.

Wade said residents of the 18-unit complex were evacuated in time, thanks to antiquated, but functional, smoke alarms. "Thanks to a $5, battery-operated alarm, they were able to get out," he said.

On June 12, workers began wiring a new fire detection system in the building, Wade said. But even if the system had been ready before the blaze, the outcome probably would have been the same, he said.

The new system uses a newer technology that includes strobes and buzzers to alert occupants when a fire is present.

The residents displaced from their homes are being assisted by the American Red Cross, which set up a nearby aid center Monday.

Tampa Fire Rescue and the Hillsborough County Fire Department give away and install free smoke alarms. The alarms are available through local fire departments. Fire engines also have a stock of fire alarms on board at all times, officials say.

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