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Candle blamed for second St. Petersburg apartment fire

ST. PETERSBURG — A fire that destroyed a one-story St. Petersburg apartment Tuesday night was caused by a candle, fire rescue officials said.

The fire, reported around 11:15 p.m., at 790 22nd Ave. S, caused about $100,000 in damage, said St. Petersburg Fire Rescue spokesman Joel Granata.

The unit's occupant, 50-year-old Thomas Manuel, did not have power service and was using candles as his source of light, said the building's owner.

Manuel was not home when the fire started, Granata said.

A police officer on patrol evacuated several residents of other apartments after he saw flames coming from the building.

The officer summoned firefighters and police, and began knocking on doors, said Sgt. Bonnie Bush.

Some residents ran out in pajamas, Bush said.

All of the building's six units, including one that was vacant, were damaged. Five people were evacuated, No one was injured.

This was the second fire this week started by candles that displaced people. Another candle knocked over by a child set a blaze Monday at Edgewater Apartments, 3275 Pinellas Point Drive S.

The unit where the fire started Tuesday was a total loss, Bush said.

"It's just a shame right before Christmas," she said.

Marlis and Arthur Honegger, who have owned the apartment building for about five years, expressed sadness at the scene hours later.

"They lost everything," Marlis Honegger said of the people who were displaced. "Everything they owned."

Honegger said she had planned to show the vacant unit to potential renters today.

Gilbert Albritton, who lives next door, woke up about an hour after the fire started to see firefighters dousing the flaming building.

"A fire of that caliber," Albritton said, "You just can't imagine it."

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The apartment unit that was destroyed in a fire at 790 22nd Ave S. Tuesday night had water service. Because of incorrect information provided to the Times, this story originally said the unit had no water service.

Candle blamed for second St. Petersburg apartment fire 12/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 24, 2009 1:36pm]
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