Firefighters suspect arson, rescue man from NE blaze


Published: Saturday, July 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.

Firefighters forced their way inside a burning home and discovered an unconscious man on the hallway floor Friday morning.

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Gainesville firefighters work to ventilate a home in the 2000 block of NE 3rd Place after a Friday morning fire was discovered by a neighbor.

ROB C. WITZEL/The Gainesville Sun

The man, whose name has not been released, was listed in critical condition at Shands at the University of Florida after Gainesville firefighters Lt. Gary Law and Edward Evans pulled him from his house in the 2000 block of NE 3rd Place.

The fire is under investigation as a possible arson, Gainesville Fire Rescue reported.

Investigators discovered several points of origin for the blaze in four rooms in the house and indications it had been intentionally set, said Gainesville Fire Rescue spokesman Paul Kincaid.

Donald Wallace, the man's next-door neighbor, spotted the fire climbing up to the building's ceiling through a window shortly before 10:30 a.m.

"I just happened to walk by and saw the flames," Wallace said. He grabbed a yellow garden hose and began trying to put out the blaze.

Wallace said he didn't realize his neighbor was inside.

Firefighters were able to break into the home's front door but couldn't see much because of heavy, dark smoke inside. Then Evans said he felt something soft on the floor and realized they had discovered a person inside.

Rescuers carried the man, who was not breathing, from the house. Once outside, firefighters started providing medical treatment and the man began gasping for air, then breathing.

Kincaid said investigators don't know who started the fire in the home or why.

But Gainesville Police reported that the fire could have been an attempted suicide. The 47-year-old resident had made a statement to rescuers that indicated the fire may have been a suicide attempt, said Lt Wayne Ash.

The man lives alone in the house, firefighters reported.

Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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