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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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Body found after fire in North Tampa apartment

TAMPA - Investigators are trying to find the cause of a Monday afternoon fire that damaged up to 16 apartments and left one person dead. The fire was reported at 2:20 p.m. on the second floor of The Garden Isles apartment complex, near the corner of Sligh Avenue and 56th Street. While investigators don't know how the fire started, neighbors said they think it was caused by a lightning strike. Witnesses said there was a thunderstorm passing through and they heard lightning strike just before the fire began.
Apartment resident Gloria Spike said she heard lightning strike nearby twice. Soon after, she smelled smoke. "I looked out the door and I didn't see nothing, but I started smelling smoke," Spike said. "Then it hit again and then my neighbor came home and I told her, 'Baby girl, something's burning.' " She then saw smoke and called the apartment complex management. The fire intensified, and Spike's apartment suffered smoke damage. "I'm just blessed to be here," Spike said. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Division Chief Robert Stokes said it's too early to tell the cause of the fire. "There was reported inclement weather preceding the fire, but the cause is yet to be determined," Stokes said. Firefighters tried to battle the blaze from the inside, but the fire was too intense so crews drew back into a more defensive mode, Stokes said. The body was found after the fire was extinguished. The body was in the apartment where the fire started, Stokes said. Investigators released few details on the victim because next of kin had not been notified. Both the Hillsborough County Fire Marshal's Office and the State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating, Stokes said. Red Cross staff responded to the apartment complex to assist families who were displaced.

jpatino@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7659
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