TAMPA, Fla. -- Mike Simpson wasn't even supposed to be at work Wednesday night.
But he clocked in anyway, and three people are alive because of it.
Simpson, a reserve officer for the Tampa Police Department, was patrolling the Beach Park neighborhood near the 400 block of Shore Crest Drive about 10 p.m. when he smelled smoke, he said.
He turned a corner and found the house at 407 S. Shore Crest Drive where the smoke was coming from. The lights were on, he said, which meant people were home.
Simpson, 61, said instincts he developed over the 30 years he was a Tampa police officer kicked in. He called firefighters, then sprang into action.
"Of course I was going in," he said. "We've trained for stuff like this. You have to do what you have to do to save lives."
He ran to the east side of the house, entered and found an elderly woman, her husband, who was in a wheelchair, and the husband's nurse, police said.
The man's wheelchair had an oxygen tank hooked up to it, Simpson said, and he knew he had to get them away from the flames quickly.
"The fire was spreading," he said. "By the time I got them out, the fire had crossed in front of the doorway. It ate away the roof's overhang."
Simpson and the homes' occupants were not injured.
Simpson said he took the Wednesday night shift because a colleague couldn't work that night.
Tampa Fire Rescue officials said the blaze was under control 10 minutes later.
Damage to the house was estimated to be $90,000. The two-story, 4,600-square-foot house is valued at $1.4 million, according to county property records.
The blaze was caused by an electrical problem on the porch, authorities said.
Simpson, who retired in 2007, said the home on Shore Crest Drive was the third burning building he's entered.
Years ago, he said he had to check for occupants in burning houses in Ybor City and East Tampa.
Both properties were abandoned and no one was inside.
He said he was glad he was able to help Wednesday.
"Stuff like this is second nature," he said, "but it's rewarding."
Copyright 2013 - Tampa Tribune, Fla.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service