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Family and friends lose everything but each other in St. Petersburg fire

ST. PETERSBURG — A family of four and two friends lost everything but each other in a fire that erupted early Wednesday while they were sleeping.

Janine McKinney was just happy no one was hurt.

McKinney, her husband, Lee Deatherage, their two kids, Christopher, 8, and Ashlee, 6, and two friends Chris Davis and Joe Church were all asleep when the fire broke out in the kitchen.

Hours later they stood barefoot outside the apartments at 4200 First St. N, soot-covered and somber.

"It really puts a different spin on Thanksgiving," said Mc­Kinney, 29. "I don't know what we're going to do. Everything's gone."

They had planned to have people over for a Thanksgiving feast today.

"It's like a dream I ain't woke up from," said Deatherage, 39.

They credited Church, 26, for saving everyone.

Church doesn't even remember waking up. He said he remembers being in the hallway, smoke all around him. He yelled for Davis, 50, who was in the living room sleeping on a recliner.

Together, the two went into the back bedroom and grabbed the kids and their mom and dad.

McKinney said the smoke was heavy and disorienting. Confused, she started walking into another bedroom by accident when someone, she doesn't know who, pulled her in the right direction.

Church grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed the flames, to no avail. He grabbed another one from down the hall. He was starting to beat back the flames when the small extinguisher ran out.

No one remembers hearing a smoke alarm.

The fire erupted shortly before 4 a.m. in the kitchen of their apartment, on the second floor of the 12-unit building, said St. Petersburg Fire Rescue spokesman Joel Granata. Officials were looking at the stove as a possible culprit.

McKinney said she was browning rolls Monday night, but double-checked to make sure the stove was off. The stove was missing buttons, and one of the burners wasn't working. "It was always something with the stove," she said.

The fire ruptured the water pipes at Mayflower Apartments. Firefighters shut down water for the complex. Power was also disconnected after lines fell close to firefighters.

McKinney said they didn't have renters insurance. She doesn't have a job and her husband was recently laid off from Adams Tank and Lift.

Their two friends are working but were staying with the family to save money.

"We got really lucky, you know," McKinney said. "Everything else can be replaced. They can't. None of them … can be replaced."

Christopher, a first-grader at Lealman Elementary School, wasn't so sure.

Inside the apartment was his favorite book.

"He just started reading," his mother said. "He's so proud."

"What's the name of your book?" McKinney shouted to him across the apartment parking lot.

"Oh, shoot," he said, tossing his arms in the air, remembering.

"It can be replaced," she said.

Christopher shook his head, pulling a blanket tighter.

"Yes, it can," she reassured him.

"I think it's still up there," he said.

"It's ruined."

He didn't believe her, asking over and over how she knew.

"Can you tell me what it looked like?" he finally asked.

Black, his mother answered — like everything else.

Family and friends lose everything but each other in St. Petersburg fire 11/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 10:28pm]
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