2 families displaced after duplex fire
NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) -- Crews are investigating a fire that sparked during the early morning hours inside a South Florida duplex.
The blaze broke out just before 4 a.m. Monday at a duplex along Northeast 168th Street and First Avenue. Fire crews were called out to the scene. "Upon arrival, there was a challenge for firefighters with the electrical lines coming down," said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Captain Eric Baum. "We were able to coordinate with FPL to neutralize those lines."
Firefighters encountered heavy smoke and flames. According to investigators, the fire was fueled by a gas used for welding. "There's a lot of fuel loads in the house. There was a settling tank in the house, and the settling tank was extremely hot," said Baum.
Flames gutted the home and burned a large hole in the roof. Aside from the dangerous gas, firefighters also encountered sparking inside the duplex. "We're not sure if they were fireworks or sparks from electrical wires, but upon arrival, it did look like fireworks," said Baum.
All eight residents escaped the fire unharmed through an open window.
Anthony Rea was one of those residents. He, his girlfriend and their 8-year-old son live near the rear of the duplex. After he heard the explosion and saw the flames, he quickly got his family out of the home. "It sounded like a hand grenade going off. It was loud. I mean, it blew the doors off, and it made every picture in the house come off the wall, and everything got knocked down. That's how loud it was. The whole wall blew in, and I saw a lot of smoke, and then I started seeing flames," he said. "The first thing I did was, I grabbed my little 8-year-old, and I took him outside. Then my girlfriend, she lost her legs because she had an infection when she had a baby, and I had to grab her."
Rea's girlfriend, Shanika Conder, said, "I was sleeping. I just heard this big boom, and [Rea] ran out to the kitchen, because he thought the water tank blew up. But it wasn't, because by the time he got me and my son outside, their window exploded, and all the flames were coming out the window."
The owner of the duplex and her family live near the front of the residence, where the explosion occurred.
Investigators say they detected acetone in the area where the fire started, as well as inside the duplex owner's vehicle, which was taken away for examination.
The property has been deemed uninhabitable, and the eight residents are now being assisted by the Red Cross. "I just can't believe this," Conder said, "[but we're alive] and that's a good thing."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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