HomeRenters InsuranceTampa fire displaces sisters, their 5 kids

Tampa fire displaces sisters, their 5 kids

Brittiny Smith-Florence says she woke early Friday morning to the smell of smoke. Minutes later, her home was engulfed with flames.

TAMPA, Florida — Two local families are homeless after a devastating fire swept through their rented Tampa home. They were uninsured. 

It was Brittiny Smith-Florence who first smelled the smoke and rushed to get her family to safety. 

“It’s very hard. My sister and her kids were asleep in that room when it happened,” Smith-Florence said, speaking to 10 Tampa Bay outside the condemned home. “It’s very emotional being here right now, because had I not woke up, it could have been a very different outcome.” 

It was around 3 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 20, when Smith-Florence said she woke to the smell of smoke. She went to investigate and saw the smoke coming from her dryer. 

“It was just like this white, thick white smoke just started coming out of the dryer,” she said. 

According to Smith-Florence, the dryer was overheated and smelled strange on Thursday night, so she had unplugged it. 

“As soon as I opened it, flames jumped out and caught clothes nearby,” she said. 

She woke the household — her sister and their five shared kids — rushing them outside. 

“This whole area was engulfed in flames and we could see the flames from down the street. And that was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever seen in my life. Like we were literally just asleep in there and now this!” 

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue worked quickly to put out the fire, but little could be salvaged. She said she didn’t have renters insurance. 

“I can’t do anything but look at it. I just cried because it’s all gone. It’s like… it’s gone,” Smith-Florence said. 

Tonight, Smith-Florence is staying at a hotel, and starting over. While her sister and three kids are now with family in Texas, Smith-Florence doesn’t want to pull her kids from Tampa, the only home they know. 

“My daughter Blake and my son Booker, he is autistic, so it’s a lot for him. I’m just trying to keep him in the same routine at school and things like that,” Smith-Florence said. “My daughter has been like my rock. I was crying the other day, she was hugging me and wiping my tears. She was telling me, ‘Mommy, it’s okay, we’re going to find another house and it’s going to be a better house.'” 

Smith-Florence said support from the Red Cross and neighbors has been vital and very appreciated. 

“I’m just trying to take it day by day. Honestly, I don’t know… I’m just all over the place right now because I don’t, I don’t know what to do first. Like, I just don’t know where to go first. But me and my children are safe. We’re just trying to make it.” 

If you would like to help Smith-Florence and her family get back on their feet, you can find their GoFundMe page by clicking here. 

A firefighter was injured while putting out the fire, but we are told he is now home and expected to make a full recovery. Hillsborough Fire Rescue said the cause is “undetermined,” but confirmed it started in the laundry room. 


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