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Fire damages part of housing complex in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A two-alarm fire drove out residents at a St. Petersburg housing complex Monday afternoon.

The fire was reported just after noon in the back of one of the two buildings that make up Cara House, 450 Fifth Ave. N. The building has 12 units; all 12 residents were safely evacuated without injury, St. Petersburg Fire Rescue acting division chief Brett Ciskoski said. The fire reached into the attic, and witnesses said flames stretched toward the sky.

Ciskoski said it took about 30 minutes to bring the fire under control.

The cause is still under investigation.

Residents evacuated during the fire waited outside Monday afternoon, first in the parking lot next to the building and then in a tight group on the front porch.

Lashawn Rawls said she smelled smoke from outside the building and knocked on every resident's door to make sure they evacuated safely.

"These residents are just like my family," Rawls said. "I was just trying to save everybody's life."

Rawls said she is a medical technician and that Cara House is an assisted living facility.

The building's website says it caters to "mental health issues, addiction recovery, autism, and other challenges" and describes it as "a bridge from the ALF existence to total independence."

When a reporter approached the building's manager, Carolyn Berlanti, she said Rawls was a cleaning lady and that Cara House is an apartment complex for low-income residents.

Claire Wiseman can be reached at cwiseman@tampabay.com or (727)-893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman on Twitter.

Fire damaged part of the Cara House residential complex at 450 Fourth Ave. N in St. Petersburg on Monday.

Fire damaged part of the Cara House residential complex at 450 Fourth Ave. N in St. Petersburg on Monday.

Fire damages part of housing complex in St. Petersburg 02/17/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 11:21am]
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