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New Port Richey fire destroys units at High Points Apartments

Smoke pours through the roof of a unit at High Points Apartments off Indiana Avenue in New Port Richey as firefighters work to extinguish the fire on Monday.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Smoke pours through the roof of a unit at High Points Apartments off Indiana Avenue in New Port Richey as firefighters work to extinguish the fire on Monday.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Terri Gonzalez was taking a nap in her apartment late Monday afternoon when she started feeling hot. She asked her roommate to turn up the air conditioner.

Suddenly she heard voices outside shouting for someone to call the police. Her roommate stuck his head out the door and saw why their apartment felt so warm: Flames were coming out of apartment No. 9 next door.

"He screamed, 'Get out of the house, get out of the house,' " recalled Gonzalez, 21.

Gonzalez grabbed her Doberman, Tyson, and her cat and ran out the door.

Her apartment — and nearly everything inside it — went up in flames.

Firefighters managed to stop the fire from spreading beyond the two units at High Points Apartments, a garden-style apartment complex of one-story units set back on a woodsy lot off Indiana Avenue.

No injuries were reported. Authorities said the fire did not appear to be suspicious, but they are still investigating how it started.

The city fire chief, Alex Onishenko, said the two units were destroyed and other nearby units had smoke damage.

Fifteen-year-old Michael Riddle lived with his mother, Sandra, in the apartment where the fire started.

Michael said Monday that he and some pals had stopped by the apartment after school just to drop off his things. His mom was at work.

Then, he said, he left to go to the library to check his MySpace account. As he was returning, his friend Justin Vitale, who had beat him back to the apartment, came running toward him.

Justin said he opened the door and saw smoke coming from the bedroom of Michael's mother. "The bed was on fire," he said.

Another friend ran to the maintenance office, and he and a worker tried to put out the fire with an extinguisher.

Gonzalez, who had lived at the apartment complex for about four months, said she was thankful to be alive.

She was worried about telling her husband, Victor. He is in the military and is stationed in Iraq, she said.

Fortunately, she said, she had found another military family who had opened their home to her. She said she would get on the computer Monday night to break the news to Victor.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

New Port Richey fire destroys units at High Points Apartments 04/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 20, 2009 9:03pm]
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