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Firefighters rescue 89-year-old man from a burning St. Petersburg home

St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue workers stand outside Charles Luke Davis’ St. Petersburg home, much of which was consumed by a fire that broke out about 8 a.m. Friday. Davis was taken to a hospital after suffering inhalation injuries.

Photo by RICHARD JOHNSON

St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue workers stand outside Charles Luke Davis’ St. Petersburg home, much of which was consumed by a fire that broke out about 8 a.m. Friday. Davis was taken to a hospital after suffering inhalation injuries.

ST. PETERSBURG — It always seemed nothing could stop Charles Luke Davis.

Even the lighting bolt that struck him at the age of 13, earning him the nickname Lightning Luke.

Now 89, Davis has had more than his share of near-death encounters over the years, family members said.

It wasn't until firefighters pulled Davis from his burning home Friday morning that anyone thought he was anything less than invincible.

He was unconscious. And he wasn't breathing.

"I'm so glad they got him out of there," said nephew Dana Sims, 47, who lives a few blocks away on 18th Avenue S. "It's a blessing he's alive."

Davis was found lying amid "very heavy smoke conditions" in his home at 2721 22nd Ave. S, said St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue spokesman Lt. Joel Granata.

Firefighters carried him out of the house and used an on-scene kit to open his air passages.

Davis was taken to Bayfront Medical Center in critical condition after suffering serious inhalation injuries, Granata said. He was later moved to the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital.

"If it hadn't been for (firefighters' efforts), he would have died — there's not even a question," Granata said. "It was a very heroic act."

The blaze broke out in the home just before 8 a.m. and quickly consumed much of the house, Granata said.

District fire Chief Michael Zamparelli said the fire was so intense it melted the identifying numbers off firefighters' helmets.

As firefighters worked to contain the blaze both inside and outside the home, flames shot through the roof and windows, neighbors said.

Sims, who drove over as soon as he heard about the fire, couldn't believe it when they pulled his uncle out alive.

Neighbors said they could hear Davis calling to them as flames began to overtake the house.

Several launched their own rescue attempt before firefighters arrived, said Marcus Byrd, 40, who lives next door.

Byrd and a few others kicked in the back door, but had to retreat when flames shot out.

"We started calling his name — 'Lightning! Luke! Where are you?' " Byrd said. "We heard him say he was trying to find us, but he couldn't see for all the smoke."

When firefighters found him, Davis was in the kitchen, unconscious. No one else was injured in the blaze.

Davis, who has lived in the house for more than 50 years, according to neighbors, lived alone since his wife died in 1998.

Notoriously independent, Davis would go fishing whenever he could and, until recently, rode a scooter around St. Petersburg, Sims said.

"He had a few accidents and we tried to tell him he needs to stop riding that thing," Sims said. "That was him. He never quit."

Eventually, family members did the only thing they could to get him to stop: They cut the scooter's wires.

Sims said he's hoping Davis, who regained consciousness briefly on his way to Bayfront, can bring that same fighting spirit to his recovery.

"He'll have a rough go, but I hope he pulls through," Sims said. "He's a tough old guy, always has been."

Fire officials said it appeared a space heater may have sparked the fire.

An investigation is under way.

Contact Marissa Lang at mlang@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

Firefighters rescue 89-year-old man from a burning St. Petersburg home 11/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 25, 2011 11:02pm]
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