SPRING HILL - An 86-year-old woman is expected to be OK after a fire broke out on her patio early Wednesday morning.
Neighbor Don Brady stepped outside about 7:15 a.m. and noticed a thick column of black smoke rising from the rear of the house across the street, 1333 Salem Ct.
A deputy was parked just down the street, so Brady rapped on the cruiser's window and told him what was happening. While the deputy radioed for help, Brady ran back to the house on Salem and banged on the door.
Dale Lotridge answered and was surprised to learn that the house was on fire. He said later that he didn't hear or smell anything. Lotridge hurried his mother, Melvina Lotridge, out of the house, leaving behind her insulin and eyeglasses. An hour later, her walker was still abandoned on the sidewalk, surrounded by fire hoses.
Melvina Lotridge was "a little shaken up" but was doing OK, Lotridge said.
Meanwhile, Brady was scooping water out of the backyard pool and tossing it on the flames. He said the fire was climbing up back wall of the house by the time Spring Hill firefighters arrived.
Heavy clutter inside the house and around the pool made it difficult for firefighters to get near the blaze, District Chief Kevin Carroll said. One firefighter fell into the pool's green waters attempting to clear a path to the fire, but was able to float to safety.
Firefighters cut a hole in the roof to vent the thick smoke, and the fire was quickly extinguished. Had the fire progressed, though, they would have taken a "defensive" stance, meaning the blaze would have been fought entirely from outside the house.
"It would have become unsafe to send anyone in there," Carroll said. "They would have become trapped."
Fire officials expected to spend the better part of the day cleaning out the house to find the source of the blaze.