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6 people, pets unhurt in fire

A Rock Hill family, their guests and their pets escaped uninjured but were displaced Sunday afternoon after a grease fire exploded in the kitchen.

The fire occurred at about 2:40 p.m. at 611 Rose St. just across a narrow street from a Winthrop University apartment complex. The fire was under control at 3:20 p.m., and no damage was done to surrounding buildings, said Rock Hill Fire Department Capt. Keith Pruitt.

"We were frying okra, and, all of a sudden, everything just exploded," said Tracey Keeling, 42, who lived in the house. Her two daughters, Tiffany Bell, 18, and Lauryn Bell, 16, also were inside. They and guests Justin Hunt, Eric Avila and Avila's mother, Lupe Collins, all fled the building.

Eric, a teenager whose face was streaked with charcoal, went back inside to rescue two kittens and some of the family's possessions. The others had to prevent him from re-entering, according to Keeling.

"It really spread fast," Eric said.

Two dogs in the backyard also escaped injury.

Several fire units responded to the blaze, and some firefighters nearly succumbed to heat exhaustion. Temperatures outside were in the 90s, and firefighters had to enter the building to extinguish the flames.

"That gear doesn't breathe too much," Pruitt said of firefighters' protective clothing. "We recycled everyone out of the fire every 10 minutes. Summertime takes it out of you."

Rock Hill EMS was on the scene to assist firemen and the home's occu- pants.

Damage was estimated at $75,000, said Pruitt, who added investigators agreed the fire began on the stove at the back of the house when oil caught fire.

Although the fire made the home uninhabitable and smoke damage was extensive, Pruitt said some of the belongings appeared to be salvageable. The American Red Cross has provided temporary shelter for the occupants, he said.

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