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Fire singes girl, mother, guts home

About midnight, the lights flickered and then Anna Marie Garrett saw the orange flames.

By MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 23, 2000


TAMPA -- It was almost midnight Thursday and Anna Marie Garrett was getting ready for bed. With her 8-year-old daughter asleep, Garrett decided to check her e-mail before turning in.

Suddenly, the power went out in her Seminole Heights home. When it came on a moment later, she and her daughter found themselves surrounded by flames.

"I turned around and there was orange around the (bedroom) door," said Garrett, 36. "I shouted to my daughter, "Come here, come here now.' "

Both escaped from the single-story house at 6615 N 10th St. with first- and second-degree burns. So did two goldfish swimming in a partly melted tank, two cats and a rabbit. Garrett's 4-year-old daughter was away, staying with her father.

Nearly everything else was destroyed -- Christmas gifts, photos, cases of books, the computer she used to check her e-mail. The house was gutted.

Fire investigators believe the blaze was started by a burning candle left unattended.

Garrett and her mother, who lives next door, used garden hoses to fight the flames until firefighters arrived shortly after midnight. Garrett and her daughter, Lena Marie Taylor, were then taken to Tampa General Hospital, where they were treated for burns to the face, arms and legs. Both were released early Friday afternoon.

Crews from Tampa Fire Rescue needed nearly 30 minutes to get the fire under control. The house had been in the Garrett family nearly 40 years.

"The flames caught on to the wire and there were sparks," said Gabriel Perez, a neighbor who watched firefighters. "We heard a blast and they told us to keep back."

Garrett believes a faulty outlet, rather than the candle, caused the blaze.

Late Friday, Garrett stepped over charred books to salvage photos in singed frames from the back room of her home. In her kitchen, she found a large, sealed, slightly burned cardboard box on a shelf above the counter. Inside was a Big Wheel tricycle, one of the few presents left unharmed.

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