St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Two home fires claim lives of woman, man

A blaze traps a grandmother inside her home. A few miles away, another fire ends the life of a 37-year-old man.

By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2003


TAMPA -- Two people died in separate house fires Wednesday, about three hours and 7 miles apart.

Just after 5 p.m., a 51-year-old grandmother died when one of her grandsons accidentally set fire to the family's home.

The home at 3714 Meadowbreeze Drive is in a quiet neighborhood east of Interstate 4, near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

In the other fire, Tampa firefighters responded to an 8 p.m. call at a home at 9810 N Ojus Drive, near Busch Gardens. Inside they found a 37-year-old man, unconscious and not breathing. He later died at University Community Hospital.

Dave Tucker, a fire investigator with the Hillsborough County Fire Marshal's office, said eight people had lived in the home on Meadowbreeze Drive.

He said six people were home when the fire started -- the grandmother, her daughter, the daughter's 1-month-old baby and three boys, ages 4, 7 and 10.

Tucker said one of the boys started the fire in their bedroom, at the northeast corner of the home, while playing with a lighter.

Everyone except the grandmother made it out as the house was engulfed in flames.

"She was overcome by smoke," Tucker said.

Witnesses said several people tried to rescue her but couldn't get inside because of the flames.

Paramedics arrived and worked on the woman, then took her to the hospital. It was not known Wednesday whether she died en route to the hospital or after she arrived.

Investigators declined to release the woman's name, but county property records show the home belongs to 51-year-old Helen Barber Young.

Relatives arrived to hear the news and see the charred home. They stared in disbelief. Some cried. Others made calls on cell phones.

One man, who said he was too distraught to give his name but said he lived at the home with his fiancee, punched the house in anger, then cried on the shoulder of a neighbor.

Behind him, a rainbow stretched across the sky.

Tucker said the house and everything in it was a total loss, and Red Cross officials will assist the family. He said the boys likely will not face criminal charges, though they might have to attend a fire school as punishment.

The fire shocked and saddened neighbors along the peaceful street, many of whom came outside to see the damage and console family members.

"I was coming from work and I saw the fire," said Jackie Brown, who lives nearby. "By the time I got here, it already was engulfed. It's got to be rough."

Investigators also did not release the name of the man who died in the fire near Busch Gardens, though property records show the home belonged to 37-year-old John G. Doble.

Authorities continued investigating the cause of that fire late Wednesday. Tampa fire Capt. Bill Wade said no one else was in the home at the time of the fire.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.