Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fire displaces Tampa couple from longtime home

The east Tampa home of Carolyn Simmons, 59, and Clinton Simmons, 76, caught fire Friday. They’ve lived there 36 years.


The east Tampa home of Carolyn Simmons, 59, and Clinton Simmons, 76, caught fire Friday. They’ve lived there 36 years.

TAMPA — Carolyn Simmons' 39-year-old son died in June.

Her husband suffered a stroke this year.

And early Friday the couple became homeless.

A candle they were using for light when they couldn't afford the electric bill started a fire. It destroyed the east Tampa house where they had lived more than three decades and raised their children.

But despite the year's tragedies, Simmons, 59, held onto faith that relief would come from a higher place.

"I'm looking up," she said while standing on the front porch. "I think we're to the bottom now."

Simmons and her husband, Clinton, moved into the little wood-frame home 36 years ago, when their sons were 2 and 4, and she was pregnant with their daughter.

"This was my first house," she said. "I loved it."

She lit the candle Thursday night because the couple's electricity had been turned off the previous day. Clinton Simmons is retired from laying asphalt. Carolyn Simmons receives disability checks. They had fallen behind on their bills and couldn't pay the $615 they owed, she said.

She sought help from a county service center, but in the meantime decided to use a flashlight in the bedroom and candles in the kitchen and bathroom.

About midnight, Clinton Simmons, 76, woke up when he heard loud popping. He shook his wife. The smoke started burning her eyes and mouth. She ran for the door, but it was jammed. She yanked at it until it opened. When she turned around, her husband wasn't there.

"I thought he was right behind me," she said.

He had become disoriented. Neighbors noticed flames jumping through the windows and ran inside and rescued him.

Firefighters arrived at 12:21 a.m. and got the fire under control in about 15 minutes. Fire officials estimate about $30,000 in damages, much of it in the kitchen and bathroom.

The Simmonses didn't have a smoke detector or homeowners insurance. They aren't sure if they'll be able to move back.

The Red Cross is giving them four nights at the nearby Red Roof Inn, Carolyn Simmons said. After that, she doesn't know where they will go.

She's just thankful that she and her husband made it out alive.

"I was taught as a little girl that God, he will not put you through more than you can bear," she said. "He's going to bring us out of this."

Times staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report.

Fire displaces Tampa couple from longtime home 10/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 22, 2010 10:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Helicopter, small aircraft collide at Clearwater Air Park


    CLEARWATER — Two people suffered minor injuries after a helicopter and a small aircraft collided late Saturday afternoon at Clearwater Air Park, 1000 N Hercules Ave.

    Clearwater Fire Department emergency personal douse a plane with fire retardant after the plane crashed into a helicopter at Clearwater Air Park 1000 N Hercules Ave. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. According to Clearwater Fire two people sustained minor injuries. [Photo by Clearwater Fire Department]
  2. 4-year-old girl, man injured in Clearwater Beach boating crash


    A 4-year-old girl was airlifted with serious injuries after a personal watercraft she was riding on collided with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Clearwater Beach just before 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

  3. Hernando Sheriff's Office identifies bank robber killed after chase, places 7 deputies on administrative leave


    Authorities have identified a bank robbery suspect fatally shot by Hernando County sheriff's deputies after a wild chase Friday in which the fleeing suspect rammed several patrol cars in Brooksville.

    Scott Michael Chamberlain, 44, died after a deputy-involved shooting Friday. The Hernando County Sheriff's Office said that Chamberlaine attempted to rob a bank before taking deputies on a pursuit. (Florida Department of Corrections)
  4. No. 12 FSU, defense struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State


    TALLAHASSEE — It's easy to blame No. 12 Florida State's 27-21 loss to North Carolina State on the injury to starting quarterback Deondre Francois or the three-week layoff because of Hurricane Irma.

    It would also be wrong.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  5. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off


    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]