In 13 minutes, water was on the fire in a fifth-floor unit in the Windsor building at the Town Shores condominium complex on Friday, November 1, said Gulfport Fire Chief James V. Marenkovic.
The alarm came in at 10:32 a.m. and the Gulfport Fire Department was on scene with teams from engines 17 and 6 responding at 10:38 a.m., said Marenkovic.
“Being that it was a residential high rise with smoke and flames showing, we automatically upgraded to a second alarm,” he said. “Normally, a house fire would get a one-alarm assignment. Being it was on the 5th floor and multiple residents, we upgraded it immediately.”
In addition to Gulfport, five other fire departments responded including Sunstar Paramedics: St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach, South Pasadena, Lealman and Treasure Island.
Gulfport firefighters climbed stairs with hoses and other equipment, located the unit that was on fire – which was 511, and used the building’s built-in standpipe system to apply water to get it quickly under control, said Marenkovic. On the ground, firefighters had connected a fire engine to the pump system to push water up to the floor where it was needed.
“Some damage to hurricane shutters and stuff up at unit 611 and then smoke and water damage down at unit 411” also occurred, he said.
Depending on the situation, a ladder truck can reach the third or fourth floor, he said. At Town Shores, the Windsor is one of the buildings that border Boca Ciega Bay and its close proximity to the seawall means that fire trucks can only access the front of the buildings.
No injuries were reported from residents or firefighters and that was “really great,” said Marenkovic.
The sole occupant of the unit at the time of the fire was a cat that was found unresponsive in the bedroom closest to the entry door, he said. The unit has two bedrooms.
“Firefighters were able to revive it by giving it oxygen,” he said. “We made sure the owners took it to the vet. The cat was still alive when we left the scene at about 1:30 p.m. It did breathe in a lot of heavy smoke and [endured] some heavy heat so I don’t know how well this cat’s going to do.”
The source of the fire was in the living room area, said Marenkovic.
“We have a suspicion of what it was but the fire marshal is still doing his report and the details have not been released, yet. It’s still under investigation,” he said.
A Caution for Town Shores Residents
“I’d like to tell all Town Shores residents that when they have a fire like that going on, to evacuate – to leave the building,” said Marenkovic. People “were standing out on the balconies just watching everything.
“We talked to the [condo association] president and said they need to do a better job. When a fire alarm goes off, please evacuate the building. It’s not so much the fire that kills you, it’s the smoke.”