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Mom made smart move in St. Petersburg condo fire

ST. PETERSBURG — Smart decisionmaking by the victims of a morning condominium fire helped firefighters rescue a family of three without major injuries on Friday.

St. Petersburg Fire Rescue responded to a blaze with several people trapped inside at the Pine Rush Villas Condominiums, Building 23, Unit 3, at 776 100th Ave. N at 6:46 a.m. They found a woman and her two children at a second-floor window, waiting to be rescued.

As firefighters moved to help them, Tim Peters, 43, busted out the front door with fire crews working their way in with hoses. Unable to reach the three people in the bedroom, he apparently crawled under the smoke toward the door.

"It was just a great rescue," said fire rescue spokesman Lt. Joel Granata. "The mom had said she couldn't get her and the kids out, so she barricaded them in the bedroom and they were standing right there when we pulled up. We knew right where to get them."

Firefighters hoisted a 16-foot ladder to the window and quickly evacuated Jessa Paoli, 26; Tobias Gunter, 5; and Teryan Gunter, 4.

"They must have had some schooling on what to do," Granata said. Paoli "stayed pretty calm on the phone and we all heard that as we got here."

Granata said Paoli perfectly executed what firefighters call a "shelter in place" maneuver by moving her children to the window and staying put. The victims were taken to Bayfront Medical Center for treatment.

A preliminary investigation suggested a coffeemaker contributed to the start of the fire, investigators said.

The condominium was being renovated and did not have smoke alarms.

Brant James can be reached at or (727) 893-8804.

Mom made smart move in St. Petersburg condo fire 10/09/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 9, 2009 9:24pm]
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