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St. Petersburg house with broken heater catches fire after oven used to keep warm

ST. PETERSBURG — A fire that sent one person to the hospital early Wednesday was caused by an oven used to warm a house where the heater was broken, officials said.

St. Petersburg Fire Rescue responded at 5:33 a.m. to 2741 4th Ave N and found the kitchen engulfed in flames. Firefighters doused the fire in about 15 minutes. A 40-year-old pregnant woman, her two sons and a 41-year-old boyfriend were living there.

The woman had possible smoke inhalation and was taken to the hospital. She was listed in stable condition, authorities said.

An investigator determined the home had no heat, so its occupants turned on the oven and opened the door, authorities said. Something nearby caught fire from the radiant heat. Fire quickly spread through the kitchen.

The occupants had to escape through a front bedroom window because they had double-keyed locks on the doors, and the keys were in the kitchen, which was on fire.

The house had a working smoke alarm, and Progress Energy was called to disconnect power from the home for safety reasons. Officials estimated the fire caused about $20,000 damage on the $159,500 home. The damage was limited to the kitchen.

The family was being helped by the American Red Cross, officials said.

Betty Bleckley, the owner of the house, identified the pregnant woman as Lisa Speight. She lived in the house for about a year and hadn't paid rent for for a while, she said.

"I know nothing about it more than you do," she said about the cause of the fire. "I had seen it on TV."

Bleckley said the house has a heater and didn't know why it wasn't working. She said Speight called recently to tell her the heater was broken, so Bleckley gave her the name and number of someone to fix it.

"I don't know what she did after that," Bleckley said.

Fire officials cautioned against using a stove in an attempt to heat a home.

"That doesn't work and is dangerous," said Lt. Joel Granata with St. Petersburg Fire Rescue.

He suggested that people without heat buy a space heater, preferably ceramic. And make sure you turn it off if you leave the room or your home.

This was the first fire of the year he could attribute to cold weather, Granata said.

St. Petersburg house fire

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St. Petersburg house with broken heater catches fire after oven used to keep warm 01/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 1:09pm]
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