PINELLAS PARK — A fire left a family homeless after it raged out of control Thursday evening and destroyed the house where they had lived for more than 20 years.
Firefighters had not determined the cause of the blaze, which was reported at 6:33 p.m. at 3420 Beechwood Ter. N, but the family said a frying pan full of oil, left unattended on a grill, sparked the fire.
Ladda Sipayboun shivered as she watched from across the street while firefighters worked to put out hot spots an hour after the blaze began. Sipayboun, who lived in the house with her parents, said the family was preparing to cook fish for dinner on a grill in the home's back patio area.
Someone left the frying pan unattended, she said. When she went outside, she saw a raging fireball that quickly spread inside the house.
"Stuff exploded in my face," Sipayboun, 29, said. "I ran out the door screaming."
After firefighters arrived, it took 20 to 30 minutes to extinguish the blaze, officials said.
The family had lived in the house since 1990, when they emigrated from their native Laos, said Sipayboun's father, Peter Souvannalay. The Red Cross was assisting them.
Pinellas Park police, who arrived at the scene before firefighters, had to restrain a next-door neighbor who refused to back down from battling the flames with a garden hose, police said. The man was concerned that the fire, which raged heaviest on the north side of the house, might jump across a narrow strip of grass and spread to his property.
As officers ran to make sure no one was inside the home, the man ran up and tried again to battle the flames, police said. He began to fight the officers, who subdued him with a Taser.
"I hate for something like that to happen," said Pinellas Park police Sgt. Brian Unmisig, noting that officers didn't believe the man had bad intentions. "It was just their assessment that he was in very significant danger."
The man was taken to a local hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation, Unmisig said. Police did not release his identity or condition.