Woman displaced by fire fights to retrieve belongings

Resident struggled with red tape trying to get back into condemned apartment


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two weeks ago a fire gutted an Arlington apartment complex and displaced 25 families. Tuesday night, one of the residents who lost her home told Channel 4 that she hasn't been able to return to River City Landing Apartments on University Boulevard since the fire to gather her personal belongings.

Marie Lee (pictured below) told Channel 4 that she's been fighting to go back into her apartment and get her family treasures before the building is demolished.

"If there were museums in this city burned, do you think that they would try and retrieve the artwork from those museums?" asked Lee.

Lee said she has made phone call after phone call to various places asking to get back into her place to get her stuff. Channel 4 cameras were rolling Tuesday night when Lee made another attempt with the city's code enforcement department.


"It wasn't like you came out to the property and handed fliers saying if you have any questions about your personal items," Lee told code enforcement.

Lee said that it's been two weeks since her apartment was consumed with fire and that she and her 3-year-old son were able to get out with little more than the clothes on their backs.

"If this would have been a tornado or a hurricane, wouldn't there have been a larger response from city officials? 26 families, maybe more, 26 that I am aware of, lost everything," said Lee.

The building that burned has been condemned and Lee said she was initially told by the management company that a demolition team would retrieve her belongings, but suddenly that story changed and there was more red tape. Since then, Lee's been fighting to get a third party company, licensed with the state, to remove whatever can be salvaged from her apartment before the building is demolished.


"My son has a little robotic dog, a little plastic robotic dog — he calls it Gilbert after the cat on Caillou, and he asks for that dog every day. I found another robotic dog, but it's not Gilbert," said Lee.

While the city code enforcement gave Lee approval to bring in a company to help her, during our interview, she said she still needed approval from her property management company. Lee said it's just another hoop she'll have to jump through.

"The heart of the city seems to have been broken. Nobody cares anymore," said Lee. "Why should a citizen of this city have to go to such extremes?"