Lightning sparks apartment fire near Tampa, displacing 50 residents

CARROLLWOOD, Fla. - A lightning strike sparked a two-alarm fire at an apartment building near Tampa Monday afternoon, displacing more than 50 residents, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

The blaze in Carrollwood damaged 18 of the building's 24 apartments, firefighters said. An estimated $800,000 in damage was caused.

The American Red Cross and Hillsborough Office of Emergency Management are helping the displaced residents with food, shelter and clothing.

Firefighters received reports of the fire about 3:30 p.m. at the Grande Oasis at Carrollwood Apartments at 8699 Key Royal Lane, east of Himes Avenue and south of Busch Boulevard.

"It was very loud and very bright," Mike Neppel said.

Deputies and firefighters ordered residents to evacuate the building. Fire crews entered the burning complex to save trapped pet dogs.

"Three firemen went in and got them," said Carly Clayton, clutching her poodles. "They were all soaking wet, but they're OK."

No injuries were reported.

A maintenance worker was driving in his golf cart at the complex when he saw a bright flash and heard loud thunder, according to a Fire Rescue spokesman. The worker looked up and saw a roof in flames.

"You can replace everything but pictures, memories -- those sentimental things. That's the worst," said Caroline Ekthuvapranee, who lived in the burning building with her two children and dog.

The fire was largely extinguished within an hour, firefighters said, but hot spots were still being putting out at about 9 p.m. Monday.

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