Saturday, June 16, 2018
Public safety

Two critically injured in Tampa house fire

TAMPA — Timothy Mendenall said his dog may have saved his life with its incessant barking.

He opened his bedroom door at 2 a.m. Saturday and saw a sofa in flames. A bed in his friend's room also was burning. Mendenall and the friend quickly filled pots with water from the sink to douse the flames. In seconds, neighbors jumped in to help. Someone sprayed flames with a garden hose.

They quickly put the fire out. But the friend who shares the 3001 E Ida St. house in east Tampa with Mendenall, and the friend's girlfriend, were critically injured in the fire early Saturday that investigators say may have been arson related to a domestic dispute.

A 58-year-old man and his 51-year-old girlfriend were taken to the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital, according to Tampa Fire Rescue. Their identities have not been released.

Mendenall, 53, who was not hurt, and his friend rent the three-bedroom house. The woman does not live there and there are no other residents.

Fire investigators have not said who they suspect of starting the blaze, except to confirm that Mendenall was not connected to the dispute nor fire. The fire remains under investigation.

Mendenall said he did not hear any arguing. Firefighters found Mendenall's housemate outside the front of the house when they arrived. The woman was in the back yard sitting in a chair, said Mendenall.

Mendenall said he saw a gasoline can that was partially melted inside the house and removed it. The red container was still sitting in front of the house more than nine hours after the fire.

"The last time I saw that gas can it was in the back yard by the shed," said Mendenall, who said the gas was for a lawn mower.

Neighbor Barbara Reed said she heard arguing in the house and saw pots flying out a door before the fire. She knows the man who was burned.

"They always got along good," Reed said. "This time, somebody got real mad."

If anyone argued, Mendenall said, he slept through it until the dog began barking.

"My buddy was already trying to put out the fire," he said. "So I helped him."

The dog is a mix-breed puppy that is part bulldog who was not injured. Mendenall and his friend own it.

"I don't remember his name," Mendenall said. "I just call him 'dog.' "

Contact William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3432.

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