Woman killed in Tampa house fire, 3 TPD officers injured

Posted at 8:44 AM, Mar 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-09 09:36:38-05

One person died following a fire at a home in Tampa on Thursday morning. 

Four Tampa Police officers responded to the home at 3405 Fern Street and pulled a woman out of the house.

The victim has been identified by police as Valerie Fleming, 57.

Lt. Bryan Hill said they tried to get in the house, but could not at first. They knocked on windows and doors. ABC Action News learned a neighbor called the victim's parents. Her mother immediately responded to the home shortly after TPD did. According to Lt. Hill, the victim's mother opened the garage door and they kicked in the door leading into the house.

"We had to go back and forth because the smoke was kind of overtaking us," Lt. Hill said.  

Lt. Hill said they did not see flames, but the smoke was intense. He said the woman was steps away from the door. She died at the scene. 

"It appeared as if she was trying to get out, but unfortunately didn't make it," Lt. Hill said.

Lt. Hill was treated at the scene. The other three officers were taken to the hospital. Their names are Corporal Jim Verble, Officer Antonio Ortiz-Saldana, and Officer James Dattoma. Lt. Hill said they were treated and released and are doing okay.

Tampa Police says the fire was under control by 7:45 a.m.

Neighbors said the victim lived in the neighborhood several years.

"It's just a regret that it happened this way. I'm going to miss her," James Moore said.

The investigation by Tampa Fire Rescue, Tampa Police and arson investigators found that the fire started in one of the bedrooms from an improperly discarded smoking material, which then caused major smoke damage in both the bedroom and throughout the rest of the home.

"I'm sorry that she's gone, but I'm happy that she didn't have to go lay up in a hospital and suffer," Lindberg Butcher, a neighbor, said.

According to TPD, Fleming survived a fire in the same house 11 years ago that originated in the same bedroom. They say Thursday's fire caused an estimated $60,000 in damage.