Morning fire destroys condominium, cause of blaze unknown


Lt. Jeff Lane calls for water while battling the fire that destroyed unit No. 123 at Creekwood Villas. The fire forced the evacuation of 15 residents from eight condominiums at the complex.

Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 at 8:28 p.m.
Flames ripped through a northwest Gainesville condominium early Tuesday, leaving two people homeless and forcing others to evacuate nearby residences.
Andrew Thomas Smith, 25, returned home to 123 NW 34th St. in Creekwood Villas and found it ablaze, according to Gainesville Fire Rescue. Firefighters were called to the building shortly before 8:30 a.m.
No one was injured in the fire, but it destroyed the home shared by Smith and roommate Stephanie Richards ' homeand also caused some damage to the adjacent residence at No. 127.
Neighbors, standing outside the row of condominiums, some still in pajamas and barefoot, said they heard what sounded like explosions coming from the burning residence.
"I was just sleeping, and I heard something crash," said Ryan Dean, 19, a University of Florida sophomore living next door. He heard another crash, he said, and looked outside where he spotted the flames.
Another neighbor, Santa Fe Community College student Austin Peek, 20, said, "I just heard a huge boom. The whole porch was on fire, like a movie."
At about 7:25 a.m., Smith left the condominium to take Richards to work. When he returned, he found police outside and his home on fire.
A police officer spotted the fire and helped alert residents, said Fire Rescue spokeswoman Krista Ott.
Firefighters arrived at 8:33 a.m. and found flames shooting from both the first and second floors and fire licking at the condominium's roof. Water pumped from fire hoses pummelled the blaze, sending debris from the burning building into the air. Smoke could be seen several miles from the complex and lingered in the air as police directed motorists away from the blaze, rerouting traffic at Northwest 34th Street and West University Avenue.
Fifteen residents were evacuated from eight condominiums at the complex.
Investigators were trying to determine what caused the blaze that burned through the back of the condominium, leaving a smoking shell. It took about 30 minutes to extinguish the fire.
Smith told firefighters when he returned home he saw fire on the condominium balcony and went into the house to save a pet cat. He also said he and Richards didn't have a gas grill and don't smoke inside the building.
The American Red Cross is assisting Smith and Richards, Ott said.
Michelle Buth, 38, and her mother, Suzanne Buth, 63, residents at No. 127, watched as firefighters worked to save the building. After putting out the blaze, firefighters told the Buths their home had escaped major damage and two cats inside were safe.
Grateful for the news, Michelle Buth said she also was lucky to have escaped from the home. She said she heard about three explosions that sounded like car crashes, including one coming from the front door of No. 123.
"I was lucky to get on clothes and get out," she said.
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com

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