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Neighbor alerts man to fire

Published Sep. 13, 2005

Robert Sovik left a burning cigarette in an ashtray that started a fire in his house and sent him to St. Joseph's Hospital because of smoke inhalation.

But he was lucky in one respect: He lives across from Cynthia Brooks, a neighbor he and authorities credit with waking him in time to stumble out of the burning home.

"She is a heroine," said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Bill Wade.

Brooks, 38, had the day off from JCPenney, and was standing on her front deck when she saw smoke under Sovik's carport. She ran to his front door and banged on it, yelling for him to get up and for her family to call 911.

Sovik, 60, told investigators he was asleep, and when he heard all the commotion, he fumbled through the smoke to a side door, where Brooks grabbed him.

Sovik was listed in critical condition late Wednesday. Wade said the 10 a.m. blaze heavily damaged the 8005 N Temple Place home.