A 4-year-old boy woke up shortly after midnight Thursday and told his mother that there was fire in their west Bradenton duplex, fire officials said.
The 24-year-old mother, the little boy and his 3-year-old brother were standing in the street by the time Cedar Hammock firefighters arrived at the duplex, in the 4900 block of Lake Hill Court, at 12:15 a.m.
"When we got there we found the southernmost duplex well involved with fire venting out the living room window," Cedar Hammock Fire Battalion Chief Robert Permane said.
Ten minutes later, the crew managed to gain control of the blaze that, according to fire officials, may have started in the living room.
A three-engine company comprising 11 firefighters and fire officials remained at the scene until 3 a.m. to extinguish the blaze, which was contained to the duplex it started in.
"The living room, kitchen and hallway received extensive fire damage," Permane said. "The remainder of the unit received heavy smoke and heat damage."
On Thursday afternoon, the stench of burned embers hung heavy in the cul-de-sac, which is just off of 34th Avenue West. A sturdy piece of plywood stood in place of the front door, and a blue tarp was draped across the roof. A barbecue grill stood next to a charred, mangled piece of aluminum in the front yard.
The victims were not identified by fire officials or the American Red Cross, who were called in to help the family.
One neighbor said his home, which is adjacent to the duplex, did not receive any fire damage.
The fire caused an estimated $75,000 worth of damage to the duplex. Fire officials said the home is uninhabitable but can be repaired.
"They seemed to be pretty distraught last night," Cedar Hammock Fire Deputy Fire Marshall George Ellington said about the woman and the children. "We're still trying to determine the exact cause."
The woman and her children went to stay with a relative after the fire, said Ann Marie Welty, financial development director with the Manatee chapter of the American Red Cross.
The agency gave the family food, clothes and shelter at an area hotel to help them.
"I think they're in pretty good shape," Welty said. "We're taking good care of them."
Contact the Manatee chapter of the American Red Cross disaster department at (941) 792-8686.
Distributed by the Associated Press