Man helps woman in wheelchair escape 3-alarm fire

Burned-out residents upset over number of hydrants in apartment complex

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One day after a fire destroyed an apartment building in Arlington and left more than 20 families without a home, Channel 4 gets a look at the damage and hears stories of survival and frustration.

The fire at the River City Landing Apartment on University Boulevard across from Jacksonville University broke out just after midnight Saturday.  The flames destroyed more than 30 apartments.  Those that were saved were damaged by water and smoke.

Jacksonville Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt said one firefighter had burns to the wrist from fighting the flames and two residencts were hospitalized because of smoke inhalation.

LaChelle Christian says she feared people, including babies, were trapped inside.  She says she knocked on doors telling people to get out. That's when a man asked her husband to help save his mother who was in a wheelchair.

"He came and asked me for my help. We both ran upstairs to help. She was taking her time, but we got her out of there," said Anthony Christian.

The Christians are glad no one was seriously hurt.  They say they lost everything in the fire.

LaChelle Christian thinks her apartment could've been saved if there was more than one fire hydrant in the complex.

"There is one hydrant for the complex. I woke my husband up and said we got to get out, there's a fire going on," said LaChelle Christian.  "There could have been a tragedy, someone could've been killed."


Christian says she's speaking with other residents about what their options are.

"I'm very upset because I have nothing. These other people have nothing. We don't know where we're gonna go and what's going to happen after this. Somebody has to step up and say they were wrong. Somebody dropped the ball and it needs to be corrected," said Christian.

Jacksonville Electric Authority spokesperson Gerri Boyce told Channel 4 the hydrant on the property is not a JEA hydrant, that it was a private hydrant for the apartment complex.

Randy Wyse, president of Jacksonville's Association of Firefighters, told Channel 4 the hydrant is known as a dead-end hydrant, meaning it doesn't have much water pressure. He also siad 2,000 feet of hose was run from that hydrant and JEA boosted power from it.

Wyse says because of the age of the building, there was no sprinkler system and there were no fire stops, which would've prevented the fire from spreading from building to building. Wyse says fire codes are different with older buildings.

The Christians did not have renters insurance and say they have only the clothes on their backs. They're being assisted by the Red Cross and being put up in a hotel until Tuesday. They said they're not sure what they will do after Tuesday.