TAMPA — Dozens of residents watched flames jump from an apartment building as about 40 firefighters tried Saturday to extinguish the blaze.
As the roof collapsed, firefighters jumped back. The fire spread to five units at Royal Park Apartments before they were able to put it out, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Capt. Bruce Delk said. The complex is at 56th Street and Sligh Avenue.
Five apartments were severely damaged, and the other 19 in the building suffered smoke and water damage, displacing 14 families, he said.
The blaze started just after 3 p.m. No one was seriously injured, although the woman who lived in the apartment where the fire began went to the hospital complaining of smoke inhalation. Fire Rescue officials were not releasing her name.
Janice Mitchell, 24, lives near the resident whose apartment burned first. She said she talked to the woman and her young son afterward, and the boy said he set fire to a bed.
Torre Spencer, 23, was one of the first to see the fire. He was standing outside, talking to a friend when he saw flames through the window of a third-story unit.
He ran toward the apartment and found the woman trying to put out the burning mattress with water from her sink.
Spencer said he looked for a fire extinguisher but there was none. He had to run back to his unit to get one, he said.
"It's crazy," he said. "She should have had a fire extinguisher in her apartment."
Other neighbors agreed. Several said they've asked management for extinguishers but they've never received any.
Spencer said the only reason he has one is because he's friends with the maintenance staff, which brought him one.
A woman working in Royal Park's leasing office declined to comment, saying they were trying to take care of tenants.
Delk said code requires that there either be an extinguisher in each unit or one readily available outside.
He said he spoke with the apartment manager, who assured him they were up to code. Still, Delk said investigators would check themselves.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2443.