Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Two Pinellas deputies do double duty at fire

DUNEDIN — Two Pinellas County sheriff's deputies kept a fire from spreading and helped neighbors to safety at the Harbor Town Apartments early Friday, officials said.

Cpl. Jim Cooper was on patrol and noticed smoke coming from a building in the complex, which is at 1686 Hampton Lane, about 12:30 a.m., officials said. Cooper called Dunedin Fire Rescue, and he and Deputy Richard Trump headed for the building.

There they met Eric and Carol Puniska, who told the deputies their apartment was on fire.

Inside, Cooper and Trump found the apartment full of smoke and the kitchen in flames with the fire spreading. The heat and smoke drove them back outside, but then each took a deep breath and went back in, spraying the blaze with their fire extinguishers.

That, officials say, knocked the fire down enough to keep it from spreading to neighboring apartments.

Dunedin Fire Division Chief Bill McElligott said that if the two deputies weren't in the right place at the right time, the fire could have been much worse.

"Quite frankly," he said, "we got lucky."

As firefighters arrived and took over, Cooper and Trump evacuated other residents. There were no serious injuries, officials said.

McElligott said the fire burned so hot that it made PVC water pipes above the stove burst.

The Puniskas told deputies they had been cooking french fries, left the stove unwatched and found the kitchen in flames when they returned.

McElligott said the kitchen was not equipped with hardwired smoke detectors as required by Florida law.

"If they had fallen asleep, it could have been a tragic incident," he said.

"It could have been multiple fatalities."

Friday was not the first time Cooper has been recognized for reacting resourcefully to a fire.

Ten years ago, he was trying to help a man in Oldsmar whose car was engulfed in flames. The man refused to get out of the car, so Cooper leaned into the window and punched him. While the driver was stunned, Cooper pulled him to safety. For that, the Sheriff's Office named him Deputy of the Year.

Two Pinellas deputies do double duty at fire 06/06/08 [Last modified: Sunday, June 8, 2008 9:03am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Mulberry teens, 15 and 18, killed when cars collide at Plant City intersection


    MULBERRY — The local high school has an enrollment of 1,000 but to some it feels like a tight-knit family. Many of Mulberry High School's students have spent all of their school days within the city limits, said principal Michael Young.

    Pepe Salgado, 18, was killed Friday along with his sister Frinzi Salgado-Diaz, 15, in a car crash in Plant City. They were passengers in a car driven by their cousin Edilberto Nava-Marcos, 18, who was transported to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center and was listed in critical condition. All three lived in Mulberry and attended Mulberry High School. [Polk County School District]
  2. Assisted living facility owner accused of sexually assaulting employee in Pinellas


    ST. PETERSBURG — An assisted living facility owner was arrested Thursday on charges that he sexually assaulted an employee, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

  3. Find serenity at Grand Cayman Island's Cemetery Beach



    Hey, cruisers, if you've been to Hell and back, snuggled with the stingrays and taken photos with the turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre, you might be looking for something different on your next trip. (Guilty!)

    Good snorkeling can be found off shore at Cemetery Beach in Grand Cayman.
  4. Editorial: Honoring a solemn sacrifice


    For a nation still slogging away in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones across the globe, this Memorial Day holiday marks the latest commemoration of sacrifice abroad, of uncertainty over America's role in securing the globe and of the country's great debt to its military families. The peace of yesterday is almost …

  5. Four Brandon middle school students face child porn charges related to sex video


    BRANDON — Four Burns Middle School students, ages 12 to 14, have been arrested on child pornography charges after one secretly recorded a girl in a sex act and the others posted it online, authorities said Friday.