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Fire hits Italian Club floor


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 17, 2000

TAMPA -- It was something of a cosmic payback.

And it all began when Capt. Bill Wade of Tampa Fire Rescue got a page at about 2:30 a.m. Friday. He quickly slipped into a work jumpsuit.

Fire engines were screaming toward the historic Italian Club on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City after flames were seen inside.

Wade instantly was worried. It had been exactly four weeks since two city blocks in Ybor City went up in smoke after a forklift operator snagged a live power line. And then there was the rash of suspicious fires and arsons that have plagued the neighborhood during the past year.

"So it's like, I'm out the door," Wade said.

Firefighters broke into the club at 1731 E Seventh Ave. and made their way to the second floor, where the flames were concentrated on the north end.

The culprit: Linseed oil left in a bucket with a mop after someone waxed the dance floor Thursday night. The combustible oil had burst into flames after sitting in an unventilated room overnight.

They doused the flames, which had been kept to a minimum largely because the 82-year-old building had been fitted with sprinklers seven years ago. Then firefighters ordered a vacuum from Station 5 in Robles Park to suck up residual water that could warp the old, wooden floors.

"Typically, we don't have the resources available," Wade said. "It was brought down there special."

The club already had announced plans to honor 145 Tampa firefighters this Thursday for battling Ybor City's massive blaze last month.

And those plans are still on. It will cost $3,000 to repair the floor and give it a new paint job, said John Centinaro, the club's event coordinator and a board member, who was beside himself Friday with appreciation for the way firefighters smothered the big fire -- and the little one.

"Oh my goodness, incredible," he said. "Four days before we honor the firefighters, they saved the day."

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