HUDSON — Joshua Smith awoke Monday morning to his wife screaming from the front door. Flames shot out of the windows and over the roof of the two-story home up the street. He threw on a pair of shoes and tore over to the house.
Smith dashed up the home's outside stairs. At the top, he found a woman lying across the threshold of the open front door, engulfed in flames. He reached for her arms to pull her out of the burning house, scalding his own hand. But as soon as his grip tightened, he felt her lifelessness. He yelled into the home for the other woman — "Where you at?" — but heard no answer.
Smith barely knew Jessica Keith and Amber Lynn Jordan, both 24. The women moved in about two weeks before. On Sunday, they had offered to help Smith and his girlfriend move to another home nearby.
"They're my neighbors," Smith said he was thinking while he ran up the stairs. "I've got to help them out. I've got to do everything I can."
Fire rescue units responded just after 7 a.m. Neither woman could be saved. Neighbors said a bulldog also perished in the fire.
Later Monday morning, yellow sheriff's tape snaked through the small neighborhood of Hudson Springs Park overlooking a vast swath of grassy marshland. Pasco Sheriff's Office vehicles, fire trucks and news trucks covered Pine Street. Charred palm trees stood around the blackened shell of the home where investigators poked around and firefighters sprayed out stubborn embers.
Neighbors congregated to compare what they saw. Frank Beckwith said he watched flames shoot 10 feet from the windows. Jessica Williams, Smith's girlfriend, said she cleans and maintains homes in the neighborhood before tenants move in. The home looked up to building codes, she said. Every home was smoke detectors. She had no speculation as to what could have started the fire.
"I've never seen a fire that intense and that hot and that quick," she said.
The investigation into the cause continued through Monday. Detectives placed yellow evidence cards around the home. Forensics vans pulled up.
Family members of both women could not be reached Monday afternoon.
Over the years, records show, Keith had a few run-ins with the law. She was arrested twice in 2012 on cocaine and marijuana possession. Her name was mentioned in a Tampa Bay Times story in 2011 as the girlfriend of Kamar Allen, who was killed that summer.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Contact Alex Orlando at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.