Son's reaction helps mom smother flames in home

Published May 2, 2007

RIVERVIEW - A 13-year-old boy's quick thinking saved his home when a faulty extension cord caught fire Tuesday.

His mother, Mariseli Diaz, woke suddenly when flames licked her hand about 8:30 a.m. The headboard of her bed shifted when Diaz moved away, sending fire shooting up the wall and nearly setting her hair afire.

The sleep-addled Diaz, 30, panicked. She filled a measuring cup from the kitchen sink and dumped it onto the flames.

Meanwhile, smoke filled the apartment and set off the fire alarm, waking her son Richard Cubi, 13. He could barely see through the smoke.

As his mother dumped a second ineffectual quart of water on the blaze, Richard brought her the extinguisher they keep by the washing machine. But the boy struggled to pull the pin.

Diaz took it from him, yanked the pin free and smothered the flames.

"She's a lot stronger than me," Richard said.

After firefighters put out the smoldering bed, grayish dust covered the apartment.

Dave Tucker, a Hillsborough fire inspector, said he blames a faulty extension cord Diaz bought at the Big Top Flea Market at E Fowler Avenue and U.S. Highway 301 two weeks before.

She got three for a dollar each from a vendor. The first two shorted out immediately, but the third seemed to work fine - until it nearly killed her.

Tucker said he's very worried that others have purchased the white, unbranded three-outlet cords and may be in danger.

"I do believe it is a manufacturing issue," he said. "There's too many unknowns for me to speculate how big this is."

The market was closed Tuesday, but when it opens an investigator will take and test the cords, Tucker said. Once they trace them to a manufacturer and figure out how many were made, a recall may be issued.

Michael A. Mohammed can be reached at mmohammed@sptimes.com or 813 226-3404.