Forgotten toaster leads to house fire
No one was injured in the blaze that started when two Pop Tarts caught fire. Damage from it could cost around $75,000.
By CANDACE RONDEAUX, Times Staff Writer
Published September 23, 2003


TARPON SPRINGS - Jackie Muszynski knew something was wrong even before she got the call.

"Something kept telling me to go home and I didn't," said Muszynski, 36.

Hours after a kitchen fire ripped through Muszynski's home at 1122 E Lime St. Monday morning, she fought back tears and wished she had followed her instincts.

The blaze started around 8 a.m. Monday after two Pop Tarts Muszynski had left in a toaster caught fire in the small kitchen of the modest one-story ranch home she shares with her husband and two young daughters. Flames devoured the kitchen walls and ceiling, causing part of the home's roof to collapse.

No one was home when the fire started and no one was injured. But Muszynski's three dogs were trapped in the home for several minutes before neighbors came to the rescue. One, a 14-year-old named Dusty, had to be taken to a veterinarian for treatment after the fire.

A lawn service worker noticed smoke coming from the roof and asked neighbors to call 911, Muszynski said. The first engine was dispatched at 8:04 a.m., arriving three minutes later. Firefighters put the fire out in about 15 minutes, well before Muszynski arrived home, said Tarpon Springs Fire Marshal Rick Butcher.

"When she got there she said, "I know exactly what happened,' " Butcher said.

Muszynski had left only a half hour before the blaze began. She had been in such a hurry to get her daughters to the school bus stop on time she forgot about the Pop Tarts, she said.

A physical education teacher at Sutherland Elementary School, Muszynski was well on her way to her work when she remembered the toaster was on. She thought about turning back but decided to wait until lunch to check on the house. Nobody was home, but she was worried about the family pets, she said.

"I don't know what I would have done if I'd come home and found my dogs burnt," Muszynski said through tears.

Luckily, a neighbor's quick rescue saved the animals. But that wasn't enough to stop the flames from destroying a new roof Muszynski was in the process of putting on her home.

In recent months, the family spent about $30,000 to remodel their home, Muszynski said. Now they'll have to start over again. Butcher estimated that repairs could cost roughly $75,000.

"I'm just happy my dogs and no one else was injured," Muszynski said.

It could be days or weeks before the family will be able to return to their home. Structural damage and lingering smoke could pose a risk to the family's safety, Butcher said. The Red Cross will help the family secure meals and a hotel room for several days.

- Candace Rondeaux can be reached at 727 771-4307 or rondeaux@sptimes.com