WESLEY CHAPEL — Daniel Siegrist was at home with his mom when they saw the thick black smoke. They live in the Angus Valley area of Wesley Chapel and it was a little after 1 p.m. Friday.
Siegrist, 18 and a volunteer firefighter for Pasco County Fire Rescue, was set to graduate from Pasco County High School that evening. He grabbed his gear and ran outside.
A nearby home on Woodsman Drive had flames shooting through the roof. Siegrist called dispatchers and soon several engines and emergency vehicles lined the narrow street. His mother, Angie Polk, watched her son help the firefighters and she soothed the home's residents.
Patricia Medeiros lives in the modular home with her husband, four children, one grandson and four dogs. She was cooking french fries when she realized she was out of aluminum foil and decided to run to the grocery store. She thought she shut off the stove. Her 20-year-old son, Manuel, was mowing the lawn out back when he saw smoke. No family members were inside the house as it caught fire, though the four dogs were. They were rescued. No one was injured.
Temperatures neared 100 degrees in the hot afternoon sun. The fire was quelled quickly, though the damage was severe. Pasco Fire Marshal Larry Whitten verified that it was the french fry pan that started it.
Firefighters with heavy gear and red faces sat down on a ledge in the shade near the street to try to cool off. They drank water and mopped their faces with towels. Siegrist sat with them, but off to the side. Then he scooted over closer, their conversations swirling around him. He stayed quiet. He has wanted to be a firefighter since he got his first toy truck as a toddler. Siegrist is going through the fire academy and hopes to be hired afterward.
But he didn't act like a baby-faced newbie when approached by a reporter. Siegrist followed policy like a veteran, saying, "I can't talk to you. You've got to talk to the chief."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4609.