New Port Richey home destroyed after boy reaches for bat, spills gasoline

NEW PORT RICHEY — Five-year-old Brodie Soltis wanted to play baseball in the yard as he does nearly every day.

So on Saturday afternoon he reached into the bin and plucked a bat from a container.

That led to a series of unintended events.

The container tipped, knocking over a 5-gallon gas can. Something sparked a fire that began to spread within inches of Brodie and his 2-year-old brother, Blaine.

That's when mom ran to the rescue.

Stephanie Soltis, 39, sprinted from the driveway into the garage, picked up Blaine and ran to the end of the drive way with Brodie running out, too.

Soltis screamed: "Please help me, my house is on fire."

With the kids safe, Soltis and a neighbor tried fighting the growing fire with a small fire extinguisher, a garden hose and sheets. It didn't work.

"It got bigger and bigger and bigger," Soltis said.

Flames engulfed the garage and spread to the rest of the house, 4319 Crestwood Blvd.

"We had flames shooting 30 feet from the roof," said Soltis' husband, Shawn, a mechanic with Busch Gardens. "We lost everything."

It was unclear what caused the fire. The gasoline might have spilled onto an extension cord that was attached to a leaf blower, he said, or static electricity might have caused nearby clothing to catch fire, she said.

"Somehow (the gasoline) found some sort of an ignition source," Pasco Fire Marshal Don Campbell said, acknowledging several possibilities. "Obviously, gasoline doesn't take much to ignite."

The family recovered some smoke-laden clothing and spent part of Monday scrubbing leather and bed frames to recover whatever else they could.

"It's a shock when everything you've worked for your whole life is gone in a matter of minutes," Shawn Soltis said, while out looking for a new apartment to live in on Monday.

His family had no insurance.

The American Red Cross put the family up through Monday night. Stephanie Soltis said they would stay with family members until they figured out what to do.

Brodie cried all weekend, his dad said.

"He keeps saying that he wants to find a job to help pay for all this," he said.

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

New Port Richey home destroyed after boy reaches for bat, spills gasoline 10/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 17, 2011 10:25pm]

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