TREASURE ISLAND (FOX 13) - A homeowner said firefighters are the reason he's alive after flames engulfed his Treasure Island home Tuesday. The fire started around midnight at 110 90th Avenue on Sunset Beach. The blaze spread quickly, trapping resident John Stambaugh and his dog on a second floor balcony.
"The staircase was engulfed in flames. I had to retreat to the little balcony off the living room because the living room was so full of smoke. You couldn’t get through it," Stambaugh said. "You could feel the heat. The heat was intense."
Treasure Island Fire Rescue arrived first on the scene as smoke and flames filled the home turned duplex. Firefighters climbed a ladder and helped Stambaugh escape with his dog.
"He saved my life. He saved my dog's life," Stambaugh said of firefighter Steven Rowland. "I could feel the flames. It was a horrible experience, a horrible experience."
Rowland joined Treasure Island Fire Rescue in 2015. He completed the rescue with Lieutenant Jeff Logsdon, a 19-year veteran of the department.
"We train for this kind of stuff. We rely on our training. We did exactly what we were trained to do," said Lt. Logsdon. "Steven did an incredible job pulling him down the ladder. I assisted them. It could not have worked out better for anyone."
Stambaugh made it to safety without injuries. The homeowner told FOX 13 that neighbors helped rescue the downstairs tenant.
"He’s a cancer victim. A neighbor came over and lifted him out of the bed and took him outside," Stambaugh said. "The man and his son got out OK. I got my dog out. That’s all I care about."
Firefighters spent hours trying to control the blaze and stop the spread to neighboring homes. Multiple agencies, some as far away as Pinellas Park, provided aid.
"Extreme heat, intense fire, heavy smoke coming out of the building," Lt. Logsdon recalled. "It was so hot you could feel the heat directly through the windshield of the fire truck."
The fire destroyed Stambaugh's home and partially damaged a neighbor's house.
The American Red Cross provided assistance.