APOLLO BEACH — Deputies say a woman soaked with accelerants and set afire ran from her burning home and collapsed in her neighbor's yard Tuesday afternoon.
A rescue helicopter flew her and her husband to Tampa General Hospital. Both suffered life-threatening injuries, said Deputy Larry McKinnon, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman.
McKinnon said deputies think the fire possibly began as a domestic dispute. At 2:25 p.m., a neighbor called 911 and reported hearing screaming. The caller said the house at 7565 Oxford Garden Circle was on fire, McKinnon said.
When crews arrived, they found the woman on a neighbor's front lawn with burns over 80 percent of her body, said Ray Yeakley, a spokesman for Fire Rescue.
They discovered her husband in the back yard.
"Some kind of accelerant was dumped on one of the people (the woman) then the house was set on fire," Yeakley said.
Neighbor Angelo Valdes said he's been living four houses away from the beige stucco house in the Covington Park community for five years and never saw any signs of trouble from the couple. Valdes said the couple have two young children and his neighbor once told him he worked security at Tampa International Airport.
The nature of the husband's injuries have not been released, and deputies have not identified the couple.
McKinnon said the children were not home at the time of the fire.
"We are conducting a criminal investigation," he said.
The beige stucco home where the fire started was gutted, Yeakley said. Fire Rescue officials are not sure where the blaze started or the estimated cost of the destruction at this time, he said.
After treating the man and woman, the firefighters' next objective was to save neighboring homes. They were able to stop the fire before it spread.
Valdes said he first noticed something wrong when he heard the ringing of a fire alarm. He went outside and saw smoke rising from the house.
"I didn't know if it was a barbecue or what," he said.
Then he saw a fire in the garage. Firefighters started arriving, and he thought the fire looked contained, but then flames started shooting from the roof, he said. He heard a loud bang as the garage door collapsed.
Fire Rescue and Sheriff's Office vehicles crowded the subdivision's roads for most of the afternoon. School bus drivers dropped children off outside the entrance, and curious children ran up to the yellow police tape.
"Nothing like this has happened here before," Valdes said.