Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa fire kills woman, 81, injures son

TAMPA — As Jerry Haymon sat on his front porch Friday night, he saw smoke coming from a house across the street and ran to help.

Outside, a woman and her son begged him to kick the door in, but he found that the fire was too hot.

Inside, an 81-year-old woman died, and her son was injured trying to save her, Tampa police said.

The fire started just before 10:20 p.m. at 2922 E 21st Ave. Gloria Smith may have accidently sparked the fire by smoking a cigarette on a couch in her mother-in-law suite at the back of the home, Tampa Fire Rescue said.

Smith's son, Gregory Polite, who also lives at the address, tried to save her, but the flames were too intense to reach the back bedroom. Polite, 58, made it back to the porch, where Haymon and neighbor Van Bryant found him face down, unable to move but still conscious.

Haymon and Van Bryant helped pull him to safety. Polite suffered second-degree burns and smoke inhalation. He was in serious condition Saturday evening at Tampa General Hospital.

"I could feel his skin peeling off as I got up under his arms to pull him out," Haymon said. "He said, 'My momma is in there.' "

Firefighters found Smith on the bathroom floor, police said. The medical examiner will determine an exact cause of death.

Polite's wife and 8-year-old stepson escaped the house unharmed.

The wooden house, built in 1925, was destroyed. On Saturday, blue shutters dangled from the house's charred white frame. A burned sofa sat on the front porch, where Smith often used to relax on summer afternoons.

Whenever Haymon saw her, he'd say hello. Now, he says, whenever he looks at the house he'll remember the fire.

Times Staff Writer Shelley Rossetter contributed to this report. Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 661-2439 or

Tampa fire kills woman, 81, injures son 09/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 24, 2011 10:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two boys in critical condition after Largo crash


    LARGO — A 7-year-old boy was thrown from a car in a head-on crash on Starkey Road, and both he and a 6-year-old boy were in critical condition Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Trump's new order bars almost all travel from seven countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Sunday issued a new order banning almost all travel to the United States from seven countries, including most of the nations covered by his original travel ban, citing threats to national security posed by letting their citizens into the country.

    President Donald Trump speaks to reporters Sunday upon his return to the White House in Washington.
  3. Somehow, Rays' Chris Archer remains just shy of being an ace

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Chris Archer had another bad game Sunday.

    Chris Archer is sputtering to the finish line, his rough start on Sunday his fourth in his past five in which he hasn’t gotten past four innings.
  4. In Mexico City, hopes of finding quake survivors dwindle


    MEXICO CITY — Five days after the deadly magnitude 7.1 earthquake, the hulking wreckage of what used to be a seven-story office building is one of the last hopes: one of just two sites left where searchers believe they may still find someone trapped alive in Mexico City.

    Rescue workers search for survivors inside a felled office building in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City on Saturday.
  5. GOP health bill in major peril as resistance hardens among key senators


    WASHINGTON — The floundering Republican attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act met hardening resistance from key GOP senators Sunday that left it on the verge of collapse even as advocates vowed to keep pushing for a vote this week.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate, said Sunday that it was “very difficult” to envision voting for this health-care bill.