Officials: burglar bars trapped family in fire

- An unthinkable tragedy strikes a family in Tampa.  A grandmother and two young boys are dead and a third is clinging to life after a fire tore through an East Paris Street home.

Investigators say an overloaded power strip and improperly spliced wires sparked the fire. The windows on the home were blocked with burglar bars, trapping the family inside.
   
The children were visiting their grandmother, Sheryl James when the fire broke out.  She died along with three-year-old Emjay Jackson and eight-year-old Reshard Ashley.

Eight-year-old Romello Jackson is in critical condition.

Tonight, their family and neigbhors held a vigil to help cope with the loss. Whether they lived there or not, neighbors of all ages say they grew up in this home, with this family. They're leaning on faith and each other.

"We are gathered here as a family. We come in sadness. We also come in joy," said Reverend Zackary Roberts.

"We lost three loved ones today," said Cedric Harris. "We have one 8-year-old fighting for his life. And he's fighting."

As the memorial outside the home grows with candles and toys, neighbors think back to happier times.

"This is where we spent birthdays, 4th of Julys, Christmas, Thanksgiving, everybody came to granddad's house," said Lestina Cottman.

It's those memories that are bringing comfort to a community, broken and hurting.

"We pray for strength for this family," Roberts said. "Build them up when they're torn down. Turn your life around now because the day is coming that we must make that journey and I pray you are prepared when that day comes."

Fire officials say it was an electrical fire that caused all of this. Now, the focus is on prevention.

Wednesday, firefighters and the Red Cross will go door to door to meet with neighbors, making sure their homes are safe and equipped with working smoke detectors.

 

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