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Girl left home alone critically injured in Palatka house fire

Police say mother was out when fire broke out about midnight

PALATKA, Fla. – An 8-year-old girl is in critical condition at UF Health in Gainesville Friday after being pulled from a burning Palatka house early Friday morning. Investigators are looking into the possibility the fire was an arson.

The fire was reported just before midnight at a home at Oak and 15th streets in Palatka.

Capt. Matt Newcomb of the Palatka Police Department said that firefighters entered the home and found the girl.

The mother, a single woman, was not home at the time, but authorities don't know how long she was gone. Neighbors said an older boy also lived in the home.

"I thought there was a fire in the backyard at first," neighbor Jacob Weeks said. "Then the guy yelling changed my mind about that. I walked over and [the flames] were just flowing out of the side of the house, through the window."

Weeks, who lives across the street, said he called 911, then he and another neighbor started pounding on windows to get anyone inside out.

"Seeing it happen, I really don’t know how to explain it. My heart dropped," he said.

Neighbor Michelle Atkins said the victim has a "cool relationship" with her 4-year-old boy. 

"She speaks to everybody. She’s pretty happy and pretty bubbly," Atkins said.

The State Fire Marshal and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are investigating. Authorities said they had reason to believe the fire was intentional.