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Exhaust fan sparks fire at apartment

A few hours before the bathroom in his Remington apartment caught fire, 29-year-old Gerald Antione called a maintenance man to come look at the exhaust fan because it started sparking.

Antione told Tampa fire investigators the maintenance man looked at the fan and decided the repair could wait until after the holidays.

At 11:51 p.m., the fan caused a fire to the attic and filled apartment 41 E with smoke.

No one was injured, but the fire caused about $40,000 in damage to the complex at 10610 N 30th St., and forced eight families from their apartments because rescue workers had cut the power until the electrical system was deemed safe, said Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Bill Wade.

Three of the eight families, including one couple with a child, went to temporary shelters provided by the American Red Cross.

"They had nowhere else to go," Wade said.

The fire comes two weeks after a jury awarded 23-year-old University of South Florida student Lai Chau more than $15-million in punitive and compensatory damages in her negligence lawsuit against the north Tampa apartment complex.

Chau sued the Remington, saying it failed to protect her from three assailants who abducted her from the parking lot in 2001. They drove her around town and shot her three times in the head.

A jury on Dec. 15 awarded Chau $5.6-million in compensatory damages. The next day, jurors returned with a $10-million award in punitive damages against Remington Apartment Homes' owner, Southstar Equity, and property manager Brookside Properties.

The leasing office at the Remington was closed Saturday and no one in management could be reached to comment on the fire.