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Several watch as fire ruins units

A second-floor fire broke out at a North Tampa apartment complex Wednesday afternoon, damaging the building and displacing people from their homes.

No one was injured in the blaze at Arlington Chase Apartments, 2225 E 131st Ave., just north of University Square Mall and west of the James A. Haley VA Medical Center. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue workers responded from a nearby station within three minutes, Fire Rescue spokesman Ray Yeakley said, and the flames were put out in 20 minutes.

Several residents stood outside and watched firefighters clean up the water and mess surrounding Building 52, though few seemed fazed. According to Yeakley, Fire Rescue workers responded to fires at the apartment complex 12 times in 2006 and six in 2005.

"That's a way lot, a whole lot," Yeakley said. "That's averaging one a month (in 2006)."

He said some of the responses could have been to small match or porch fires.

By late Wednesday, investigators still were looking into the cause of the fire and trying to estimate cost of the damage, which spread to all eight units, seven of which were occupied. None of the displaced residents was available to comment, and the onsite property manager also did not comment.

Red Cross spokeswoman Melanie Koch said the Tampa Bay chapter was assessing the scene and would provide shelter, food, clothing and other immediate needs to the residents if necessary.

A couple of buildings away from the fire, Kimberly Bedwell stood and looked at the charred apartments. She just moved into her unit a week ago, she said, and had heard of previous fires at Arlington Chase.

She was spooked enough to turn off her ceiling fan and AC unit, vowing to use them only in spurts.

"The wood on these buildings is so old," she said. "I think all this wood should be fixed, not just one piece at a time. I'm scared now."

Emily Nipps can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or