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Five escape predawn house fire in Tampa

TAMPA — Two adults and three children narrowly escaped a fire that destroyed their Belmont Heights home and killed a family dog early Sunday, fire officials said.

Joshua Lester, 24, told a fire investigator he was sleeping about 5:20 a.m. when he was awakened by the heat of the flames, which were beginning to engulf the home at 2109 E Wilder Ave., just northwest of Middleton High School.

Finding the enclosed back porch on fire, he woke up Sabrina Alston, 35, and her three children, ages 13, 10 and 6. All five escaped unharmed.

Two pit bull-mix dogs and a puppy also got out of the home. The puppy had breathed in smoke and was taken to a veterinarian, but did not survive.

The family members were lucky they got out because the home did not have a working smoke alarm, officials said.

"Without a smoke alarm, you're gambling that the smoke and the flames will wake you up," Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade said. "By then, the deadly gases of the fire are already threatening you."

Firefighters were on the scene in three minutes. In all, 26 firefighters responded from stations in Belmont Heights, Jackson Heights, Robles Park, Seminole Heights and downtown. They brought the fire under control within 30 minutes. The cause is under investigation.

The fire destroyed the home and nearly everything inside, with losses estimated at $75,000. The American Red Cross is helping the family with clothing and temporary shelter.

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

Five escape predawn house fire in Tampa 05/02/10 [Last modified: Sunday, May 2, 2010 9:55pm]
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