Downtown Tampa fire presented many challenges for firefighters battling blaze

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TAMPA (WFLA) – Cleanup is underway after a downtown Tampa restaurant went up in flames on Sunday, causing the roof to collapse and sending a firefighter to the hospital, authorities said.

Just before 6:00 p.m., Sunday night fire broke out at the SzeChuan House at 508 North Franklin Street.

A customer ran into So Fresh just two doors down and asked for help.

“One of my customers came out and grabbed me and said there was a fire. I immediately ran over, reached in, grabbed the individual, went back in to see if there was other individuals once there wasn’t any, stepped out,” said Deshun Levingston.

He ran into the business and saw smoke and flame.

“I seen black smoke and immediately my mind said if anybody is in there, let’s get em out,” said Levingston.

One employee was standing in the middle of the building that was falling apart around him.

“I would say he was about six to seven feet from the door and he just seem like he had a struggle getting out. He had burns on his hands, so it immediately let me know I could help him get out using his own strength,” said Levingston.

Tampa Fire Rescue arrived moments later and took over fighting the fire. The old buildings on Franklin Street presented several challenges.

“While we lost the building in question, we saved so much more on either side,” said Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Nick Locicero.

As firefighters poured water on the fire from above and several directions they were having problems getting to the core of the problem.

“So the whole time when it looked like it was starting to go out, it was like if you have a pot and you put a lid on the pot. It was still cooking within the lid,” said Locicero.

Eventually, the “pot” boiled over and fire broke through the roof, shooting flames high into the air, hours after firefighters began their attack.

“We never stopped fighting the fire, we never let up on the fire. It just changed its manifestation on how it looked and how it presented,” said Locicero.

Two firefighters and an employee of the restaurant received minor injuries. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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