Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. A week later, the lengthy, costly rebuilding plan for the Pasco sinkhole begins

    Public Safety

    LAND O'LAKES — A week after a massive sinkhole opened in Pasco County, county officials have begun planning the long-term cleanup, which could take months and millions of dollars.

    A sinkhole in Land O'Lakes, Fla., is seen Wednesday, July 19, 2017. The sinkhole ?‘ already one of the largest in Pasco County in decades ?‘ measures about 235 feet in width and 50 feet in depth, with the potential to expand further.
  2. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection


    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  3. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix


    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  4. Pasco commuters watch out: Broken water main restricts State Road 52

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A water main break has caused a portion of State Road 52 — one of the busiest roads in Pasco County — to buckle on Thursday afternoon, reducing three lanes of westbound traffic to just one.

  5. Police identify man who drove along Clearwater Beach sand

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater Police have identified the Pinellas Park man who they said drove his car over beach chairs and umbrellas along Clearwater Beach and streamed it on Facebook on Thursday afternoon.

    Clearwater Police took a suspect into custody Thursday afternoon after he drove along Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, running over beach chairs and umbrellas. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]