TEMPLE TERRACE — Douglas Scott was playing video games in his living room with three friends Tuesday afternoon when a neighbor came banging on the sliding glass door.
"He said, 'Get out! The building is on fire,' " the 17-year-old Tampa Bay Tech student said.
So the young men rushed outside and watched the eight units of 7010 Santa Ana Drive in the Oaks at Granada Condo complex burn for 45 minutes.
"We have a smoke detector, but the fire started on the other side of the building," he explained. "By the time the smoke spread to our side, we were already out of the apartment."
Hillsborough County Fire rescue said the fire began with a dryer in the shared attic of building before 1 p.m. When the flames reached through the roof, winds carried them through the entire attic and into the second floor.
No one was injured but the four second-floor units may be a total loss, and the four first-floor apartments sustained heavy smoke and water damage, said battalion chief Benny Jordan.
Jordan said fire investigators indicated there may have been a delay in contacting the fire department, but that was still under investigation.
Investigators said later that the cause of the fire was accidental, and started with a clothes dryer.
Soon after the fire was out, Scott and three friends visiting him for spring break rushed into the soaked first-floor apartment to retrieve all the food and clothing they could, as Scott's mother's two terriers waited outside.
Janette White was at work at the Jerk Hut in Downtown Tampa when her son called to tell her that his building was on fire. The 65-year-old lives in the complex but not in the building that burned.
Her son's second-floor apartment was in bad shape after the fire was extinguished, but she urged him to salvage what he could before it was stolen.
"The thieves are just waiting to go in there and take what hasn't burned," White said.
Janet McGuire, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, said there were 20 people displaced by the fire. Several of the renters said they did not have renters insurance.
Each of the eight families was offered hotel accommodations nearest to work, as well as money to buy clothing and food to get them through this transition, she said.
"We try to empower to take their lives back," McGuire said.
Fire rescue has not released an estimate of the damage.
Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.