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Family of six escapes Clearwater house fire

CLEARWATER — Six people escaped a fire unharmed Monday morning at their home near Marshall Park, the second time in five years that a blaze left the family homeless.

The fire, sparked by a space heater, started about 5:15 a.m., firefighters said. It was under control about 15 minutes later.

Damage to the home at 132 Engman St. was extensive.

A fire destroyed their home next door in 2005, and the family was planning to rebuild soon.

Now they are not sure what they will do.

Standing outside in her pajamas, bedroom slippers and a coat soon after the fire at her home was extinguished, Martha McKinney, 48, said she was grateful her family escaped unharmed.

McKinney, clutching a pink and white pair of tennis shoes, said she lived at the one-story home with her husband and four children for about five years.

Everyone was asleep when the fire started, and McKinney's 22-year-old daughter was the first to notice the flames. She woke up her family as another daughter, 18, called 911.

Officials blamed a space heater too close to flammable material — the first fire this year caused by a space heater in Clearwater.

The blaze claimed about 85 percent of the home, said Clearwater Fire Rescue Chief Ray Roby, leaving the inside charred black.

"We lost everything," McKinney said.

Now that fire has claimed a second home in five tears, McKinney isn't sure she wants to rebuild in the same neighborhood. Too many bad memories, she said.

Her husband, Warren, retrieved a handful of shirts, jeans and towels from the rubble as the family shivered across the street.

McKinney, 63, said he tried to put out the flames with water from the kitchen sink, but that only made the smoke worse. Unlike his wife, he managed to change into long sleeves before heading outside.

"Too cold to get out of here with no clothes on," he said.

Red Cross volunteers arrived with several white blankets for the family and put the family in a hotel for a few days, along with money for groceries and clothing, said spokeswoman Janet McGuire.

"That's to help with their immediate needs," she said. "Then we'll work on getting them back on their feet again."

Family of six escapes Clearwater house fire 02/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 15, 2010 11:05pm]

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