ST. PETERSBURG — Firefighters blamed a faulty electrical socket for igniting a blaze Friday afternoon that damaged a seven-year-old two-story home
Sixty-year-old Shui Qiu was watching TV downstairs when she smelled smoke, then heard an alarm. She ran out of the house and called her son, the home's owner, because she doesn't speak English.
About 15 units from St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, Lealman Fire Control District and South Pasadena were sent to contain the blaze at 7210 First Ave. N. The call came in at 12:07 p.m., said Joel Granata, St. Petersburg Fire Rescue spokesman.
Firefighters put out the flames within 20 minutes. The second floor, covered in soot, sustained smoke and fire damage, and there was water damage to the first floor, Granata said. He estimated the damage to be between $60,000 to $70,000.
Jia Hui Pan, 39, who also owns the China Pearl restaurant at 3313 Central Ave., said he lives at the house with his wife, mother, a son, 13, and daughter, 7. His children were in school at the time, he said.
"Brand new house," he said, bemoaning the damage to his Key West-inspired home.
Investigators determined the electrical fire started in one of the second-story bedrooms. Progress Energy disconnected power to the home.
Before firefighters arrived, a few neighbors got to work on the flames by unwinding a garden hose in Pan's lawn and aiming it toward the wrap-around balcony.
Claude Timonier, 73, said all in the neighborhood was quiet as he prepared to ride his bicycle to the grocery store. Then "everyone came out of the woodwork" and watched in the alley as flames shot out of the house's top window.
Timonier said he rushed to the front door of Pan's house to see if anyone was still inside. He wanted to check the second floor but couldn't see through the thick smoke.
Instead, he and another neighbor doused the flames as best they could with the house before fire rescue teams arrived.
"The heat was burning up my face," he said. "I was making a dent in the fire, believe or not."
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