Neighbor saves Tampa family from burning home

Clinton Bowers says he woke at 3 a.m. Monday to see his neighbors’ home engulfed in flames. He banged on their door and yelled to wake them. Tampa officials credit him with saving the family on E Hugh Street, which had to find a key to get out.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

Clinton Bowers says he woke at 3 a.m. Monday to see his neighbors’ home engulfed in flames. He banged on their door and yelled to wake them. Tampa officials credit him with saving the family on E Hugh Street, which had to find a key to get out.

TAMPA

Clinton Bowers heard something crackling at 3 a.m. Monday. At first he thought it was rain, but it was too loud. He peeked out the window and saw flames leaping from his neighbors' home at 408 E Hugh St. Bowers jumped out of bed, yelling to his wife and three young daughters to get out of the house.

Barefoot and screaming, he ran next door. Inside were Sharon Zeigler, 42, her husband, Davey, 45, and their 11-year-old son, Davey Jr. They all were sleeping as flames gobbled up the side of their two-story wooden house.

Bowers, 30, bruised his knuckles rapping on their front door, which was protected by an iron gate. He ran up and down the street, yelling for neighbors to call 911. About 10 minutes later, the Zeiglers woke up, oblivious to what was going on.

Davey Zeigler told Bowers to quit all the banging.

"I said, 'Man! Your house is on fire!' " Bowers said.

But before the family could escape, they needed to find the key to the door's iron gate.

As they searched inside, Bowers tried punching in the home's wooden siding and tried to find a window within reach. Finally, the door swung open, and the Zeigler family ran out.

No one was injured.

"When he got that key, it was all right," Bowers said. "It's just a blessing everyone's alive."

Firefighters arrived within minutes and began dousing the home. Fire investigator Al Alcala said the blaze was started by an unknown malfunction in the electrical box. Damage was estimated to be at least $45,000.

Labryan Zeigler, 24, who also lives at the house, was in the middle of his night shift at McDonald's when his family called with the news. "They said it looked like daylight out here."

The family is staying with nearby relatives until they figure out what to do next, Labryan Zeigler said.

There was a gaping hole in the side of the house and charred items scattered about the front lawn. Most of the living room furniture, a TV and some DVDs are gone.

But Zeigler said an important part of the house was spared — little Davey's bedroom. Davey turns 12 today. "His toys are okay. His world is safe," Zeigler said.

Bowers can relate. He said his first thought went to his three little girls, who now call him a hero. "They said, 'You saved the day, Daddy,' " Bowers said. "I told them, 'No, I think the Lord put me there.' "

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Neighbor saves Tampa family from burning home 10/19/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 12:56am]

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