Seminole Heights Fire Victim Was Stepsister of Commissioner

County Commissioner Al Higginbotham is left to wonder what he could have done to help stepsister Laura Grumney, who struggled with mental illness and was killed in a house fire on Saturday.

"We all feel terribly, terribly guilty," Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham said, "thinking, what more could we have done for Laura?"

Laura Grumney was his stepsister, the Tampa Bay Times reports. She was killed when Saturday afternoon. Witnesses reported seeing Grumney, 56, dashing in and out of the burning house, and ignoring warnings not to go in. When firefighters arrived at the scene shortly after 3 p.m., Grumney was found dead in the rear doorway of her bungalow, overcome by smoke and flames. 

Fire rescue units arrived to find "heavy smoke and fire coming from the rear of the house," Captain Lonnie Benniefield said in a news release. It took firefighters about 18 minutes to get the blaze under control. An estimated 22 responders were dispatched to the scene. The Arson Task Force concluded the fire was accidental, Benniefield said.

In the Times article, Higginbotham said Grumney struggled with mental illness for several years. A car accident left her with injuries that resulted in her being sometimes homeless, with pain management and drug problems. Family members pitched in to help Grumney, paying her utility bills. Grumney also received assistance from and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, according to the Times. 

"No one understands why she went back into a burning house," Higginbotham told the Times. 


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