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Firefighters contain Arlington apartment fire

Nearly 60 residents displaced by fire that damaged 22 units

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(Viewer photo)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It took about 30 Jacksonville fighters a half hour to get control of a fire Wednesday morning that destroyed at least two units at the Avesta Apartments on Townsend Boulevard and displaced 58 people.

Heavy smoke and flames were showing when the first firefighters arrived just after 10 a.m. and firefighters asked for additional equipment and resources to the scene because the fire was in the attic and a firewall separating the units began to fail.

"You want to make sure that no one is trapped inside of any burning structure in an apartment complex. Now you're dealing with adjacent units as well," said Jacksonville Fire-Rescue spokesman Tom Francis.

Francis said there were no injuries to either residents or firefighters.

Resident Henry Brinson Jr. saw flames engulfing the complex, and sprang into action to help his neighbors.

"I saw smoke when it first started no fire at all just smoke and then all of a sudden, woo!" he said. "Me and another guy, we started knocking on doors, and then the apartment managers, they came around and started knocking on doors, evacuating the apartment so everybody would be safe."

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IMAGES: Arlington apartment fire

Kelsey Park was in bed with her baby girl when she heard the knocks and said she almost didn't get up, but the knocks got louder and she realized the situation was serious.

"Once we came out of my apartment, the fire was right in front of me and my baby. She has asthma. She was coughing," said Parker. "We walked out and I started taking pictures, and my place is on fire. I don't have any home insurance."

Parker said she had to move so fast she barely had time to grab clothes for her daughter and didn't get a chance to grab shoes. While she's worried about what she had to leave behind, specifically her daughter's asthma machine, Parke said she's thankful for what she has.

"It was good that they did catch us at the nick of time because her asthma could've flared up. I wouldn't have been able to put her on a machine because we had to exit the building," Parker said. "It was a blessing to get out."

Two second-floor apartments were destroyed and 20 other units suffered smoke or water damage. The Red Cross was called to assist all the displaced residents. Red Cross officials said they provided for emergency needs, such as food, clothing, temporary lodging and other necessities.

Managers at the apartment complex also said they have about five units available for families in need.

The state fire marshal was called to investigate the cause of the fire.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office closed Townsend Boulevard to traffic in both directions from Fort Caroline Road south to U.S. Open Boulevard because of fire equipment and water lines in the road.