Woman found dead in condominium fire
By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
Published January 3, 2004

CLEARWATER - Firefighters responding to a blaze just east of downtown found an elderly woman dead in her condominium late Friday afternoon.

Firefighters were summoned to Sunshine Towers, 1243 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. S, just before 5 p.m. Friday.

They broke through the woman's locked door and found a fire burning in the front part of the fourth-floor unit, said Clearwater Assistant Fire Chief James Fogarty.

Fire crews found the woman dead inside. The woman had suffered some burns, but her cause of death won't be known until an autopsy is completed, Fogarty said.

Firefighters put out the blaze by 5:17 p.m. No one else was injured, and no other condominiums were damaged.

"They got it out pretty quickly," Fogarty said.

Clearwater police did not release the woman's name Friday evening because they were still seeking relatives to notify. Fogarty said the woman has a daughter who lives out of state.

Fogarty said the woman's next-door neighbor came home from shopping and smelled smoke in her unit. She called a maintenance crew, who came to the fourth floor and also smelled smoke. A crew member called 911, Fogarty said.

A crew member also tried to get inside by using a brick to break a window. By that time, firefighters were on scene and broke through the door, Fogarty said.

About 15 firetrucks responded to the fire at the five-story building.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation Friday night. Fogarty said neighbors told fire officials the woman was a smoker. Police said the fire does not appear to be suspicious.

"There is nothing that is arousing our concerns," said police Lt. James Steffens.

Still, several detectives and the State Fire Marshal's Office were investigating the blaze because there was a fatality.

The blaze was contained to the woman's unit and no other condos were damaged, Fogarty said. Some fourth-floor residents left their units while firefighters put the blaze out, but no one was displaced, Steffens said.