Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning strike blamed for Brandon fire that drives 12 families from apartments

Firefighters work to put out a fire that began before 5 a.m. Sunday at the Charleston Landings Apartments in Brandon. Eight units had fire damage and others had smoke or water damage.


Firefighters work to put out a fire that began before 5 a.m. Sunday at the Charleston Landings Apartments in Brandon. Eight units had fire damage and others had smoke or water damage.

BRANDON — Early Sunday morning, Josh Ettling counted the seconds between lightning and thunder. One Mississippi, two Mississippi — he couldn't even get through that without being cut off by a boom.

Ettling, 23, wanted to go back to bed. He could put his chocolate Labrador, Nico, under the covers to hide the frightened dog's eyes so they both could sleep through the storm.

But a light switch zapped his fingers when he flipped it. Minutes later, he smelled smoke. Outside the second-floor bedroom blinds, all he saw was orange.

"My apartment's on fire," he told a 911 dispatcher. Ettling says he was put on hold, then advised: Get out.

Ettling and his neighbors were driven out of their apartments by an early-morning fire that may have been caused by lightning, authorities said.

Just before 5 a.m., Hillsborough County Fire Rescue received a report of a roof on fire at the Charleston Landings Apartments, 934 Delaney Circle. Heavy smoke and fire could be seen from a distance.

Fire crews found the roof and attic of the two-story, wood-frame building heavily involved.

After firefighters fought the fire on the ground and made sure everyone was out of the building, crews battled the fire from two aerial units, spraying streams of water to knock down the fire. It was out in about half an hour.

Fire Rescue said at least eight of the units were damaged by fire and as many as eight others received some smoke or water damage.

Hours later, fire crews and the Red Cross were still helping 12 displaced families find other places to stay.

Ettling, who had pounded on neighbors' doors to alert them of the fire, stood calmly outside the apartment complex's clubhouse, talking to a Red Cross volunteer.

"It's surreal," he said. "You see it on the news. You don't see it in your living room. You don't see your ceiling sitting on your coffee table."

He left his keys and wallet in the apartment. They're gone. He left photos and a shadow box from his dad, who died when Ettling was 12. Those are gone, too.

His neighbor, 36-year-old Alan Carter, couldn't even find a change of clothes in his damaged apartment.

"Nothing was salvageable," he said. "It was all soaked and burned up."

For a moment, he lamented not having renter's insurance.

But since everyone made it out of the apartment safely, he said he thought they were all pretty lucky.

Stephanie Wang can be reached at or (813) 661-2443.

Lightning strike blamed for Brandon fire that drives 12 families from apartments 05/15/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 16, 2011 1:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Siesta Beach tops rankings of best beaches in America


    Three beaches in Florida made it on a highly coveted list of the top 10 in America this year, ranked by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach."

     Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach," ranked Siesta Beach in Sarasota as the No. 1 beach in America.
[TImes file photo]
  2. Tattooed 'Joker' accused of pointing gun at Miami traffic

    Bizarre News

    MIAMI — Police in Miami-Dade County have managed to arrest the Joker without Batman's help following reports of a green-haired man with tattoos on his face pointing a gun at traffic.

    This photo provided by the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department shows Lawrence Sullivan, who was arrested in Miami-Dade County, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, and charged with carrying a concealed firearm. Police say the self-described "tattoo model" was pointing a gun at moving vehicles. [Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department via AP]
  3. Deputies: Two men, teen intentionally set fire, left it to burn within Weedon Island Preserve


    ST. PETERSBURG –– Two men and a teen face charges after deputies say they deliberately started a fire within Weedon Island Preserve last month.

    Adam Grote, 19, left, and Brandon Kholos, 20, along with a 17-year-old, face charges after deputies say they intentionally started a fire on April 15, 2017, that burned about six acres on Googe Island within Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Police chief: Manchester searches turn up valuable info in concert bombing


    MANCHESTER, England — Home searches across Manchester have uncovered important items for the investigation into the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, Manchester's police chief announced Thursday, while other British authorities complained bitterly about information leaks blamed on U.S. officials.

    A police officer at the scene at an address in Nuneaton, England Thursday May 25, 2017 where they arrested a seventh suspect in the investigation into the Manchester Arena bombing. British police have arrested a seventh person in connection with the Manchester Arena bombing. The man was held Wednesday after police carried out searches in the English town of Nuneaton, which is about 161 kilometers (100 miles) south of Manchester. [Joe Giddens | PA via AP]
  5. Joe Henderson: Only unanimous jury vote justifies extreme act of execution


    A ruling last week by the U.S. Supreme Court on Florida's death penalty law didn't generate a lot of chatter, but don't let that fool you.

    A jury recommended execution for Dontae Morris of Tampa by a 10-2 vote in one of his murder trials. The recommendation was unanimous when he was tried in the shooting deaths of two Tampa police officers.