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Residents cope with fire's damage

A candle, sparks and sprinklers all cause enough mess to force many from their homes temporarily.

Published May 2, 2006

Christine Clark brought her mother to live with her in January because she wanted to keep a close eye on her health problems.

But Sunday night, Clark and her mother were among about 60 residents of Bahia Del Mar No. 4, 6287 Bahia Del Mar Circle S, who were evacuated after a fire set off the sprinkler system, causing damage to several units and forcing building owners to cut electricity so the building could be drained.

For now, Clark and her mother are without a home.

"Here we are going through this again," Clark said Monday, dreading another move. She was waiting to hear when she could get to her fourth floor unit.

A candle being used by a resident in a 10th floor unit sparked the fire, officials said. Christine Wayda, vice president of Resource Property Management, which owns the building, said she had no estimate of the total damage.

Wayda said she hopes the residents will be back in their dwellings by Thursday.

Some residents accepted shelter with the American Red Cross. Others are bunking with neighbors. Others, like Katie Barron, who has a condo on the same floor as Clark's, are sleeping at the LaQuinta Inn and Suites at Gandy Boulevard and U.S. 19 because the hotel chain allows pets.

Barron and Clark were back at the condo building Monday to get some belongings. Clark received a shopping list from her mom of items she would need.

Among them: a checkbook, "a red shirt hanging over blue jogging pants" and a food bowl for Biscuit, her Pomeranian.

Her mother could not make the trip up and down the four flights of stairs, Clark said.

That's what worries Barron.

"It's mostly elderly people in here," she said. "There's some that's not able to climb 13 floors. There's no plan. We have no fire drills like you used to have in school."

Standing outside near the building's parking garage, a couple asked Barron if anybody needed a place to stay. She thanked them for their kindness and pointed them to Jim Naughton, president of the condo owners' association.

"Everybody realizes what the problem is and is trying to cope with it as best as possible," he said, talking to a tenant on his cell phone while another was asking him about getting to her unit. "It's been pretty positive."

--Marlon A. Walker can be reached at 727 893-8737 or

[Last modified May 2, 2006, 01:56:04]

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