JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Red Cross was helping several families burned out by a fire that broke out early Monday morning at the Canterbury Gardens Apartments off Lane Avenue South.
Volunteers were working with 36 people from nine to 10 families at the scene. The Red Cross was putting those families up in hotel rooms.
Investigators ruled the blaze an accidental grease fire. Residents living in the complex say a woman was cooking on a stove when the back of the stove caught on fire, and the flames spread to the apartments on both sides.
"We were sleeping, you know, heard some commotion outside and I woke up and went out in the front door and it was nothing but a big black cloud of smoke," said Barry Washington, a Canterbury resident. "So I tried to go to the balcony and try the same thing. I went running back for my dog. He ran from me. So that's when I went outside. And that's when I heard the balcony, the glass break."
Residents are still unsure whether they will be able to salvage anything from the blaze. One family is still searching for a pet.
Officials with Jacksonville Fire-Rescue said no one was injured during the fire, though damage was estimated to be about $600,000.
Resident David Ramsey said he and his wife awoke to someone banging on their door and yelling "fire," then rushed outside to see flames surrounding the entire apartment building.
"You know, just total chaos at first," resident Trina Bryant said. "But you know, everybody walked away with their lives. That's most important. But like I said, people just standing around in shock, like 'wow.'"
Ramsey said he doesn't know if this could have been avoided.
"There's really nothing you can do differently," he said. "I mean, we basically are very careful with what we do. It's one of those things that happens, unfortunately. It does happen. It happens to good people."
Ramsey said he is glad he and his neighbors have each other during this difficult time.
"We're in this together. We'll get through it," he said.
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