June 10--HOLLYWOOD -- As Bohdanna Bihun walked past her neighbor's apartment, she said, she first noticed the blackened windows. Then she saw the smoke.
Minutes later, the landlords of the small apartment building at 2831 Taylor St. opened the door of unit No. 1 and began spraying the interior with a garden hose while Bihun called 911.
Firefighters were there in minutes Sunday afternoon, but it was too late.
James Burns, 59, was found dead inside, Hollywood police said.
"The smoke was pitch black, billowing," said Bihun.
Gabriel said Burns had been her tenant for 12 years.
"He was just somebody we loved so much," she said of the man known as Jimbo. "He was a member of the family."
The fire began about 5 p.m., said Chris Del Campo of Hollywood Fire Rescue.
The cause of death is unknown, he said. The case remains under investigation.
For many years, Burns worked at Gulfstream, Calder and Hialeah race tracks as a rider hired by various stables to exercise the horses, according to David Reinshuttle, a friend of 25 years. In the afternoons, he often worked as a valet in the parking lot.
But Burns' racetrack career ended several years ago when he fell off a horse at Calder and injured his spine, Reinshuttle said. That fall led to several operations and left Burns partially disabled, he said.
"He had steel rods in his back and legs, and hip replacements," said Reinshuttle, 50, who works at Gulfstream Park. "He was outgoing, fun, had his own way of seeing things. He was a good guy."
Burns will also be missed by his neighbors. "He had a lot of friends," said Bihun. "He always told me, 'If you need anything, call me.' If I needed an egg or cup of sugar, he was there. He was a very kind man."
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