Tampa fire guts 16 apartments, displaces 22 residents

10:49 PM, Aug 13, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- Seared and singed, an entire building inside the Royal Oaks apartment complex is unliveable after a fire sparked on the second floor this afternoon.

Residents say they felt the building shake just seconds before a severe thunderclap. As smoke and flames shot through the roof, concerned residents warned rescue crews an elderly female resident couldn't be found, and they feared the worst.

The fire released massive amounts of smoke, and one firefighter was taken away on a stretcher, an oxygen mask strapped to his face.

Residents say they grabbed what they could. The building was evacuated, and the sheriff's department slapped eviction stickers on 16 damaged units.

Investigators, including fire and forensics, analyzed the gaping hole in the roof, looking for signs of a lightning strike.

The sheriff's office cannot confirm that lightning struck the building, nor can they confirm that the female resident's cause of death was due to fire or smoke inhalation until an autopsy is completed.

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