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Tar sparks fire; damages estimated at $35,000

The Health Sciences-Therapy building on Fletcher Avenue, which was formerly the USF psychiatric hospital, caught fire Monday and burned for about 30 minutes.

Tampa Fire Chief R.M. Barnett said the call about the fire came in at 9:08 p.m. He said the cause of the fire was related to roof replacement work being done on the building.

“There were flames showing when we arrived,” Barnett said. “It appears at this time it was ignited by roofing tar.”

Five fire engines were present on the scene. Barnett said the first engine was able to extinguish the flames.

Capt. Michele Lane, of the Station 13 City of Tampa Fire Department, said the five trucks that were dispatched reached the scene of the fire within five minutes of the call.

Lane said she entered the building with seven other firefighters, and they extinguished the fire, which she described at one point as being 10 feet high.

Lane said roof fires typically spread faster than internal fires, and that is why five trucks were sent to the scene.

“It’s better to have them here than to not have enough to begin with,” she said. “We can always dismiss them.”

Sgt. Mike Klingebiel, spokesman for the University Police, said the initial damage estimate is $35,000.

Klingebiel said UP arrived at the building shortly after Tampa Fire and Rescue.

Barnett said there were no injuries and there was no one in the building when the fire occurred. He said damage appears to be contained to the roof and an entrance door below.

“I wouldn’t consider (the damage) extensive,” Barnett said.

“(Besides the roof), there was minor water damage inside. That’s it.”

Klingebiel said he wasn’t sure whether the building would be closed today.

  • Contact Rob Brannonat