Some students returned home from classes Thursday afternoon to find their apartment building ablaze, with their precious belongings trapped inside.
A three-alarm fire which started around 1 p.m. at The Province apartment complex on McKinley Drive had residents scurrying in a frenzy to collect their valuables before flames engulfed the building and eventually burned four apartments, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.
Though no one was reported injured in the fire, ABC Action News reported a firefighter was injured by falling debris, has been hospitalized and is expected to recover.
Munazzah Bagdadi, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences at USF, was in her living room about to leave for work when she was alerted of the fire by someone loudly knocking and screaming at her door.
“In the distance, I could hear a fire alarm, but the fire alarms go off with anything,” Bagdadi said. “Like, you can make toast and it will go off. So, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m sure it’s fine.’ Then I looked outside, and I noticed things falling down and it was melted plastic and fire started creeping out. I grabbed my laptop, wallet and keys and ran out. The apartment on top of mine was completely on fire and it was creeping up on to the third floor.”
Students were evacuated to the club house at the front of the complex, with many visibly distressed and some in tears.
Bagdadi said The Province told her they would be providing hotel accommodations for everyone who will be out of a room due to the fire.
A spokesperson for The Province said they have no comment to give on the fire or its implications at this time.
Though Bagdadi evacuated with her valuables intact, some people such as master’s student Erik Davila were away from their apartment and unable to grab what they needed.
Davila was in class when the fire started and couldn’t check his phone because of his professor. But when the vibrating didn’t stop, he snuck a glance to find that his belongings were in danger.
“My first impression is that the sprinklers would most likely go off, and I have my computer there, and even more important than that, I have my passport and visa there,” Davila, a student from Ecuador, said. “I really don’t want to lose that. I’m really worried about it, it’s in my desk in a folder, but it isn’t waterproof.”
Though Davila was alerted to the situation quickly by friends, he said he was upset that The Province failed to notify him of the emergency.
“They should have called the people who live in the building,” he said. “It was at 1 o’clock and it’s now past 2, and they don’t know I’m here. So, if they were calling everyone, they would have got to me by now, so clearly they aren’t calling anyone. Today’s Thursday, and I’m done with classes for the week so I could have left to travel somewhere and then if they don’t call me, I wouldn’t have found out about this until Sunday.”