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Man in critical condition after cigarette causes fire

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 18, 2000

TAMPA -- More than two years ago, a neighbor saved Robert Sovik's life when he left a cigarette burning in an ashtray and started a fire that heavily damaged his home at 8007 Temple Place.

On Sunday, his neighbors weren't around to rescue him. Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade said Sovik, 63, left a smoldering cigarette on his couch and started a fire that left him in critical condition in Tampa General Hospital's burn unit.

Firefighters arrived at the home south of Busch Gardens just after 5:30 p.m. to find smoke coming from the house. Once inside the house, they found Sovik lying on the floor of his smoke-filled bedroom. Sovik had second-degree burns, which blister the skin, on his arms, face and chest and suffered severe smoke inhalation, Wade said. Paramedics took him to the hospital.

It took 20 minutes to put out the fire, which caused $10,000 in damage, Wade said. The fire marshal determined that the fire started from one of Sovik's cigarettes. No one else was injured. Sovik, a widower, lives alone, Wade said.

In 1998, Sovik's neighbor, Cynthia Brooks, pulled him from the same house after he left a cigarette burning and fell asleep.

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