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Man is badly burned in blaze

Authorities say a space heater too near a sofa probably touched off the apartment fire. The victim was hospitalized in critical condition.

A St. Petersburg man suffered severe burns Thursday morning in an apartment fire that apparently was caused by a space heater.

Ramin Naderi, 19, was burned over roughly 40 percent of his upper body, according to St. Petersburg fire Lt. Chris Bengivengo. He was taken to Tampa General Hospital where he was listed in critical condition with second- and third-degree burns.

The fire started around 6:45 a.m. at Apartment 6 at 450 15th Ave. N. It is a second-floor apartment with a parking area below it. Neighbor Gabrielle English said she awoke and looked out her window to see flames billowing out of Naderi's apartment.

"It was very rapid," said English, who was treated for smoke inhalation.

She called 911 to report the fire, and when she looked back out her window, English said she saw Naderi leaving the apartment.

"He had no hair left and his skin was black," English said. "Someone tried to help him, but he didn't want anyone touching him. He was in a lot of pain."

Naderi's mother, 46-year-old Susan Naderi, attempted to enter the apartment to save two dogs, but she was unable to get back in.

Two dogs and a ferret perished in the blaze, English said.

Naderi's friend, 16-year-old Genevie Dickerson, was taken to Bayfront Medical Center where she was treated and released.

Bengivengo said the apartment had no central heating, and that the space heater was an old model that was very close to a sofa.

He said a rule of thumb is that space heaters should be at least 3 feet away from furniture, curtains and anything flammable.