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Downed power lines, small explosions complicate St. Petersburg garage fire

Two firefighters survey the scene while others work to extinguish the remainder of a fire in a detached garage Wednesday in St. Petersburg. The homeowner said she had gasoline and aerosol paint cans in the garage.

LEAH MILLIS | Times

Two firefighters survey the scene while others work to extinguish the remainder of a fire in a detached garage Wednesday in St. Petersburg. The homeowner said she had gasoline and aerosol paint cans in the garage.

ST. PETERSBURG — It was a simple detached garage, but there was nothing simple about the blaze that consumed it on Wednesday. The fire sent a tall black pillar of smoke into the air that could be seen all over the city.

After the detached garage at 420 14th Ave. S caught fire, according to St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue, there was a series of small explosions inside that made it too dangerous for firefighters to approach the structure. The explosions then brought down some overhead power lines, said St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue Lt. Joel Granata. The lines fell onto a metal fence around the property, creating another hazard for firefighters.

"We had an electrified fence that was arcing and sparking," Granata said. "We did not enter because the fence was electrically charged. We did not want to cause any harm to any firefighters, plus there were the explosions."

So firefighters took extra safety precautions, using deck guns — high-pressure water cannons mounted on fire engines — instead of approaching it themselves.

The fire was reported around 3:35 p.m. and it took 17 firefighting units 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze, Granata said. No one was injured.

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the fire. The homeowner told firefighters that she was storing gasoline and aerosol paint cans inside the detached garage.

"When heated, they explode," Granata said of the paint cans.

Downed power lines, small explosions complicate St. Petersburg garage fire 03/28/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10:39pm]
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