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Thoughtless moment sets off house fire

ST. PETERSBURG — Lisa Threadcraft moved her family's belongings into her mother's house on Thursday, leaving boxes full of pots, pans and food on the stove.

Friday morning, Progress Energy turned the power on, heating up the stove and setting the boxes on fire.

Threadcraft returned to the house with another load in her minivan later that morning and saw firefighters at the house at 2532 Fourth Ave. S.

The blaze had scorched the kitchen, causing about $10,000 damage to the home that has been in her family for years.

"I was devastated," said Threadcraft, 35. "I didn't know the stove was on."

St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue investigators said they believe the stove was either left on while the power was off; or that Threadcraft bumped the knob while she was moving in.

"That happens all the time, all the time," said fire Lt. Joel Granata. "Don't put anything on the stove at all. If you're not going to cook on it, it should be clear."

The Red Cross paid for a three-night stay in a hotel for Threadcraft and her three daughters, Alvena Baker, 14, Zaria Johnson, 9, and Shaunt'e Shuler, 4.

Now they're looking for temporary housing while the house is repaired. Threadcraft said her mother's insurance will cover the damage to the house but not to her property.

The family returned to the home Friday evening to show St. Petersburg Times journalists the damage.

The kitchen was burned, but most of the house escaped fire damage. Still, the gray walls in other rooms reeked of smoke.

"Your Tweety bird blanket got burned up. It's right there," Threadcraft said to her oldest daughter, pointing to charred belongings piled on the lawn.

"Oh, my gosh, my blanket!" Alvena said.

Threadcraft lectured the children to not make the mistake she had.

"The lesson to be learned from this: Do not put stuff on the stove," Threadcraft told them. "Do not assume that the stove is off."

Threadcraft said she moved belongings into the home Thursday, but she and her girls didn't stay at the house that night because the power wasn't on.

After the power was turned on Friday, a Good Samaritan saw smoke and called 911. When Threadcraft arrived and realized the house was on fire, she cried.

Threadcraft's mother, who lives in Colorado, bought the house years ago when she lived in St. Petersburg, where Threadcraft was born. Threadcraft was moving into the home to avoid the steep rent at her St. Petersburg apartment.

She couldn't believe she started a fire in the house her mom has owned for so long.

But she said her mother forgave her.

Times staff writer Jamal Thalji and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374 or

Thoughtless moment sets off house fire 01/02/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 4, 2009 7:40pm]
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