Hillsborough County Fire Rescue responded to a structure fire located at the Harbour Walk apartment complex located at Sandstone Drive in West Tampa Wednesday morning. Several HCFR units were on scene for the 3-alarm fire and were able to put out the blaze, but not before the fire sent flames shooting through the roof and out windows.
"It was black. It was hot. You had to fly out," said Angelique Vargas. The fire started on the balcony of her second floor apartment. Her 19-year-old son, Daniel, was the first to smell the smoke.
"I looked out the front door first, then the kitchen window," he said. "When I finally looked out the back porch, there were flames everywhere."
Daniel Vargas quickly woke his mother up.
"We're all alive, which is a good thing," she said. "Because the way that went, had I not woken up, I wouldn't be here right now."
Mike Depreisco was asleep when the fire broke out, after working overnight. Somebody pounded on his door. "I smelled smoke, opened my front door and there was smoke right outside my front door. I stepped outside the building and looked, and I see flames coming out of the roof of the building" he said.
Apartment complex management pulled leases of residents in order to notify them about the fire. In all, 14 out of 16 apartments were damaged from the fire with 6 units being a total loss. Fire officials say the fire started in an apartment and spread through the attic. Officials say no one was injured. The fire left 18 adults and one infant homeless. However, firefighters rescued one dog from its crate.
That dog belongs to Jhon Medina and his name is Simon.
"I'm thinking of calling him Smokey right now," Medina said with a laugh.
Medina can relax now that he knows Simon is safe, but when he got the call about the fire from his brother, he sped home from his job in Brandon.
"He's like my son," Medina said.
Fire fighters had to free Simon from his kennel, which is where he spends his day, while Medina and his wife are at work. They had Simon breathe from an oxygen mask for a while, but he seems fine.
"I think he's really strong, because he's ok," said Medina.
Authorities say a coordinated effort with the American Red Cross was initiated to assist the families that were displaced by the blaze. Fire investigators report that the smoke alarm in the apartment where the fire originated was functioning and alerted the occupant and her family to evacuate.
Fire officials report that a previous fire took place at this same apartment complex in February. In that blaze, 8 units were involved. Fire rescue spokesperson Nacole Rivette said the fire was ruled as an accidental electrical fire. Now, HIllsborough County Code Enforcement will be inspecting the other buildings in the complex to make sure they're safe.
"This is our second fire within two months, so they're going to be looking at all the apartments and going forward with code enforcement, regulations, and our side of the fire investigation," Rivette said.
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