ST. PETERSBURG — A family of four was left homeless Tuesday after a fire damaged their rental house in the Euclid-St. Paul neighborhood.
"I'm what you call screwed," said Todd Huffman, 34, who lived in the home with his girlfriend, Stephanie Sims, and their children, ages 10 and 4. "We probably lost a lot of stuff. I don't know if we'll be able to come back."
Firefighters arrived at the home, 1126 15th St. N, about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday and saw heavy smoke and flames on the structure's north side, officials said. The blaze made its way to the roof and burned across the attic.
The fire was brought under control within 15 minutes, officials said. No one was home when the fire started and no one was injured.
Huffman said the inside was heavily damaged from smoke and water.
Neighbors said it appeared the fire started outside, near an electrical box and air-conditioning unit on the north side of the home, and quickly moved inside. They speculated that neighborhood children playing with matches started the fire.
Fire officials would not say whether any children were suspected of starting the fire. The cause was still under investigation late Tuesday, said St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue Division Chief Bob Bassett.
Cassie Thiel, 31, said her daughter was walking with a group of children south on 15th Street when two neighborhood boys went down an alley toward the back of the house where the fire later started. When Thiel later arrived at the burning house, she overheard one boy telling the other "don't say nothing," she said.
A garden hose was found running in the back yard, fire officials said.
The Red Cross responded to the scene and provided temporary housing to Huffman and his family.
Times photographer Scott Keeler contributed to this report. Reach Dan Sullivan at (727) 893-8321.