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Families escape fire at Westgate Apartments

JFRD: No injuries in the fire; Red Cross assisting 10 adults, 1 child

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Firefighters from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department are investigating the cause of a fire that left several families without a home Wednesday morning.

JFRD responded to the fire at a Westside apartment complex just before 3 a.m. Spokesman Tom Francis said firefighters saw heavy flames and smoke when they arrived at Westgate apartments on 5202 La Ventura Court off 103rd Street, near Interstate 295. 

Francis says the complex has 20 buildings, each containing eight apartments. The fire that started in apartment 1603 has completely destroyed that unit. The rest of the units in that building were damaged. All the tenants were evacuated in time and made it out safely, according to Francis. 

Firefighters worked for 40 minutes to control the flames. At one point, the ceiling of the building began to crumble which meant crews were pulled back and a second alarm was called for more manpower.

"We began to notice the structural integrity of the building, in particular the ceiling was no longer safe as bits and pieces began to crumble downward onto the firefighters. Command wisely called everyone out, pulled the crews back and our previously offenses aggressive firefighting became a defensive posture," said Francis. "A second alarm was called primarily for manpower, which obviously an apartment unit we knew at a complex such as this, that there will be quite a bit of overhaul and hot-spot work to be done later on, so the manpower was needed."

One family member reported their mother was unaccounted for, but they later discovered that she was in a nursing home.

The Red Cross is now assisting 10 adults and 1 child affected by the fire. These families will be provided food, clothes and five days at a hotel. The Red Cross will be available if further assistance is needed.

All the tenants were gathered in the apartment complex's community center while fire crews continued their investigation.

News4Jax will have continuing coverage on The Morning Show.