Washing machine caused Tampa condo fire that displaced
The Tampa Tribune
By Keith Morelli
21 January 2016
A fire tore
through a building of the Westchester Manor condominiums on
N. Central Avenue in Tampa early Thursday. Lance Rothstein/Staff
TAMPA — Jose Vazquez walked up to his sport-utility vehicle outside the
Westchester Manor complex Thursday afternoon carrying an armload of
shoes. He opened the door and dumped some water out of one of his dress
He was one of 14 people — seven families — displaced when a two-alarm fire tore through their building early Thursday morning,
He and his 22-year-old son, Miguel, were awakened by a knock on the
door around 2 a.m. but thought the fire was small and they could soon
get back inside and go back to bed.
But the fire found its way into the attic, and there, it had free rein
to race along the rafters, spilling smoke into all the units.
“I don’t believe it,” Vazquez, 49, said, gesturing toward the building.
In his vehicle was everything he could gather, as workers boarded up
the windows and doors.
“We got the important stuff,” Miguel Vazquez said. “The Xbox, the flat screen TV; clothes.”
The younger Vazquez was headed to a cousin’s home, while his father was going to move in, temporarily, with his ex-wife.
The fire caused an estimated $450,000 damage to the building and an
undisclosed amount to the contents within the apartments, said Tampa
Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Penny. The cause was an electrical
malfunction in a washing machine outside one of the units, he said. It
was ruled accidental.
Firefighters responded just after 2 a.m. and found heavy smoke and
flames coming from the roof of the two-story building at Westchester
Manor, 9029 N. Central Ave. The complex is just west of Interstate 275
and south of Busch Boulevard.
More than 30 firefighters responded. Because of the size of the
building and the intensity of the flames, firefighters called for a
second alarm that brought additional units. They fought the flames
defensively from the outside until they had the fire knocked down
enough to enter the building safely, firefighters said.
The blaze was under control within an hour.
All 14 residents living in the eight-unit building escaped safely
before firefighters arrived. One of the units was vacant. The American
Red Cross was called to provide assistance.
“We were out there this morning to assist those clients,” said Craig
Cuatt, spokesman for the American Red Cross of Tampa Bay. “We had a
shelter on standby, but all the clients said they had places to stay.”
All will be lodging with family and friends until they can find permanent homes, he said.
The fire started in the outside laundry room of one of the occupied
units, firefighters said, and caused extensive smoke and fire damage to
that unit. Neighboring units and even some units in surrounding
buildings sustained smoke damage, firefighters said.
No injuries were reported.
Jose Vazquez said he bought his condominium seven months ago. He was
about to have it insured and was awaiting a home inspection when the
fire forced him out. Still, he was upbeat about moving in with his
Was he hoping to rekindle a romance?
He just shrugged.
“I’m hoping,” he said with a wide grin.
Fire code standards in North America for were not as stringent in the past as they are now.
Before buying an older townhouse or stacked townhouse, have a house
inspector verify that there are proper fire stops in the attics.