LARGO —The cable guy saw black smoke and melting window blinds. Suddenly, his appointment at 1007 Lake Palms Drive wasn't so routine.
"I was shocked. I knocked on the door and walked around to the back of the house to make sure no one was in there," said Bright House Networks technician Johnny Thompson, who was scheduled to install cable and Wi-Fi at the duplex Monday afternoon. "One of the windows looked like it was about to cave in."
Thompson quickly called 911 to report a fire. Then, he ran to alert the neighbors.
Markita Evans, who lives in the other unit of the duplex, was watching Dora the Explorer with her 1-year-old daughter when she heard Thompson's brisk knocks. She hesitantly answered the door in polka dot pajama pants.
"There's a fire next door," he told her. "You've got to get outside."
Alarmed, Evans grabbed her baby and watched as five Largo fire engines pulled up. Flames were extinguished in less than 20 minutes, she said.
"I'm so grateful we didn't get hurt and none of my stuff got burned," Evans said. "I'm grateful we got out of there in time. All because of the cable guy."
The fire started above the stove in the left side of the duplex, said Largo Fire Division Chief Dave Mixson. The residents of the unit were not at home when the blaze started. No firefighters were injured. Smoke damaged the walls, ceiling and furniture, he said, but thanks to a quick response, flames didn't spread beyond the kitchen.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Mixson said.
"I was just washing my dishes when I saw the smoke," said Tasha Santos, who lives two doors down. "It was scary. We came outside to just watch everything."
In the shade of a fire truck, Evans chatted outside her home with the cable guy and the trainee who accompanied him Monday. She thanked them and laughed about her pajamas.
"I look such a mess right now," she said.
Thompson, whose Bright House Networks van was hemmed in by fire trucks, said his manager was probably wondering why he didn't make it to his next appointment.
"Definitely not your typical day," Thompson said. "I feel like a modern-day hero."
Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224.