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Children start fire that guts home in Darby

Three people escape unhurt after two boys, ages 3 and 2, start the fire with an igniter.

By BRADY DENNIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 1, 2001


DARBY -- June McGinley stood across the dirt road, watching in disbelief as firefighters extinguished the last of the flames that destroyed her white cinder block home Monday morning.

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[Times photos: Dan McDuffie]
June McGinley and her son Richard, 3, sit in her car and watch Pasco County firefighters extinguish a Monday morning fire that destroyed their home at 19846 Alabama Road.
In the back seat of her green Dodge Shadow sat her two sons -- Christopher, 2, and Richard, 3. They wore plastic firefighter's hats given to them by fire investigators.

Investigators said the blaze at 19846 Alabama Road started when one of the boys lit a set of curtains on fire while playing in the living room.

"Their father works for the (Tampa Electric) gas company," said Pasco County Fire Rescue Chief Cynthia O'Neal. "They were playing with an igniter, like what you would use for a gas grill, except much larger. It's a total loss for the whole house."

Neither McGinley nor her two sons were injured. The father, Richard McGinley,was at work when the fire started just before 9:30 a.m.

Neighbor Mildred Crosby walked out her back door to find the house already on fire.

"I heard some crackling and saw flames coming out of the roof," Crosby said. "I ran in to call 911. It was a mess. Black smoke was billowing all over the place."

The fire spread fast. By the time firefighters could contain the blaze, it had gutted the inside of the house. Much of the back yard was scorched black.

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Firefighters work at the scene of the McGinley home in Darby on Monday morning.
Colorful toys were scattered in the front yard. A circular plastic play pool sat deflated on one side of the house.

Firefighters had it under control by 10:03 a.m., O'Neal said.

McGinley said the fire started so fast, she didn't have time to consider what had happened. "I don't even know what time it is now," she said. "I smelled smoke. I just wanted to get my kids out."

A firefighter twisted an ankle in the incident, O'Neal said. He was treated at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and later released.

McGinley said the house was insured. She said her family would stay with her mother.

-- Brady Dennis covers the city of Zephyrhills and police news in east Pasco. His phone number is (352) 521-5757, ext. 23.

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