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Sisters started fatal fire while playing, police say

One-year-old Anthony Duffy was killed Thursday in a car fire accidentally started by his 3-year-old twin sisters playing with matches or a lighter, a preliminary police report said.

In a brief press release Friday, Pinellas Park police said the children accidentally set the 1983 Pontiac on fire about 10 a.m. in the driveway of the house at 4332 71st Ave. N.

"It melted the steering wheel," said police spokesman LeRoy Lerchen. "It melted the dash. Everything in the car was just gutted."

Although Anthony was strapped into a car seat and could not escape the smoke and flames, his two sisters managed to get out of the car unharmed. Anthony's mother, Brandy, is recovering from burns she received trying to rescue him.

Police also said that Anthony, who would have been a year old Friday, was killed "by a combination of fire and smoke inhalation." Police still are investigating. Details of an autopsy were not available.

Mrs. Duffy, 21, was visiting a friend, Michelle Cross, when the fire broke out. Mrs. Cross called 911 and her husband, Tommy, at an auto-detailing business near the house. Cross grabbed two fire extinguishers from work and went to his home with a co-worker. A neighbor also began spraying the flames with a garden house.

Firefighters soon arrived, but too late to save Anthony.

Pinellas Park firefighters have agreed to donate $250 to the Duffy family. The money was collected by Local 2193 of the International Association of Firefighters.