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A bang and a yell save Tampa family from fire

TAMPA —Yesenia Cuellar was sleeping with her newborn in a front room when a man banged on the door.

"He said, Get out! Get out!' and I ran with my baby," she said.

Cuellar was among nine family members, including her two children, who escaped a fire early Monday.

It was caused by arson, according to the Tampa Fire Marshal's Office.

The blaze was less than 500 feet from another home that burned to the ground Sunday morning after a short-circuit.

Once outside, Cuellar saw flames coming from a shed behind the house, she said. Antonio Bove, 34, who also lived there, grabbed a bucket and tried to put it out. But it was too late.

"I don't know that we would have made it if that guy hadn't knocked," said Bove, who identified the rescuer as a neighbor.

The family watched as the fire spread to the house at 1202 E Columbus Drive. Damage to the home is estimated at $88,000, but no one was hurt.

About a block away, a home at 1205 E 15th Ave. was destroyed about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. The fire was sparked by a short-circuit, investigators said. No injuries were reported.

Capt. Bill Wade of Tampa Fire Rescue said both properties were wood-frame homes likely built in the 1920s.

Just after noon, Cuellar stood by the porch where the few things salvaged from the fire were stacked — a stroller, a mattress, a table and three chairs. She has no clothes for her baby, she said.

The American Red Cross gave her money for formula and will put them up in a motel for three days, she said.

Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

A bang and a yell save Tampa family from fire 03/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 12:25am]

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