4 dead in fire at ex-tennis player’s Florida home

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Firefighters found four bodies in a burning mansion owned by former tennis star James Blake, who was renting out the Tampa Bay-area house and not there at the time, officials said Wednesday.

Officials don’t know the name, age or gender of the victims and they aren’t releasing the names of people who were leasing the home. The county medical examiner will perform autopsies on the bodies to find out how they died.

Firefighters also saw fireworks inside the residence, but it’s unclear what kind and where they were located, said Debbie Carter, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office.

Hours after the fire was reported about 6 a.m. EDT, firefighters were still there putting out hot spots at the more than 6,000-square foot home located north of downtown Tampa.

Fire-Former Tennis Star

In this photo provided by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, flames destroy a mansion owned by former tennis star James Blake Wednesday May 7, 2014, in a gated community in Tampa, Fla.  (AP Photo/Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)

Neighbors told detectives that Blake hasn’t lived in the house for a while. He bought the home in the Avila subdivision in 2005 for $1.5 million, according to Hillsborough County property records. It had five bedrooms and five bathrooms. Video of the fire showed it totally engulfed in flames.

“It’s in the back part of Avila, the million-dollar homes. It’s a massive home,” said Nacole Revette, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough Fire Rescue.

Avila is an exclusive enclave north of Tampa known for its mansions and heavy security. Many well-known athletes call the community home and over the years, various football, baseball and tennis players have bought homes in the subdivision, which has a country club and golf course.

Blake, 34, was ranked fourth on the ATP world tour in 2006. He also has the James Blake Foundation, an organization dedicated to cancer research, in memory of his father who died of gastric cancer.

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Follow Tamara Lush at https://twitter.com/tamaralush

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