Tampa families left homeless after fire at townhouse complex

A group of Tampa families are without homes after a two-alarm fire burned through their building.

Flames broke out Monday afternoon at the Brookshire Townhomes on West Sligh Avenue, sending residents and their pets out into the street.

At least 8 units in the building were damaged or destroyed by the quick-moving flames. Fire officials determined the fire originated on the back patio of one of the units due to an electrical malfunction in the air conditioning system. The fire quickly spread along the exterior portion of the surrounding units causing an estimated $400,000.

Fortunately, not a single person was hurt. But, in a matter of minutes, life, for these families, changed forever.

"You just lost your home," said Devin Geary. "And, you don't know what you're going to do, and we're on fixed income, and it's crazy, and it's so unexpected."

Around 3:30 p.m., flames and smoke shot out of the Brookshire Townhomes building. People grabbed pets, wallets, whatever they could, and got out.

"You could feel the heat even from across the street," Joe Casey said.

While firefighters battled flames from two sides, residents watched in shock.

"Everything's just gone," said Claudette Wrensford, who lives in the community.

Parents, some barefoot from having to escape so quickly, comforted their kids wrapped in blankets.

"You just have to tell her we're all okay but your toys, your toys, we'll get better ones," Geary said.

Annette Hearn sat across the street from what used to be her home, clutching her friend's purse and a Bible.

"I just wanted to pray. I just know that God is good you know," Hearn said.

She's thankful for her life but overcome with worry about what to do next.

"All my stuff,  andI know it can be replaced, but it still hurts," Hearn said.

Even those who didn't lose a thing are heartbroken.

"Please help my neighbors out," said Wrensford. "I'm begging you and it's the holidays and they lost everything and they have kids so if ya'll can, please just help my neighbors out."

While no one was hurt, firefighters had to resuscitate a cat using a pet mask. For some people, pets and family are all they have left.

"I am happy I still have my baby and my husband and my stepdaughter," Geary said. "Like, it could've been so much worse, especially with a 3-month-old."