ST. PETERSBURG — Annie Burton-Scott was gone for only 10 minutes and was just three blocks away from her home Monday when she realized she had left behind Christmas presents for her daughter.
But when the 58-year-old returned home about 3 p.m., officials said, the house was in flames.
The house was declared a total loss by St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue, which got the fire under control in about 15 minutes.
"She said the whole living room was engulfed in flames when she got here," said Lt. Joel Granata. "Then it spread throughout the house."
Firefighters believe a space heater may be to blame for the fire that destroyed the one-story concrete block house at 3086 Melrose Ave. S. The homeowner said she left the unit on when she left.
The home has central heat, but the owner told firefighters she couldn't afford to get it fixed. She also said she couldn't afford insurance. The American Red Cross was called in to help her.
No one was injured in the fire, Granata said. But a neighbor who has asthma was taken to a hospital because of heavy smoke from the fire.
The fire department offered these safety tips for space heaters: They must be kept at least 3 feet from anything combustible and kept in good working order; and they should never be used with extension cords, propped up on furniture or used as a main source of heat.