PONTE VEDRA, Fla. – The St. Johns County Fire Rescue department helped residents salvage the remainder of their belongings from the charred remains of their burnt-out condos Tuesday, eight days after a massive fire tore through 20 units at the Bellaza Condominiums in Ponte Vedra.
The fire broke out just over a week ago, leaving a firefighter and a resident with minor injuries and causing several million dollars' worth of damage.
Many of the residents rushed to gather the last of everything they owned before storms blew through the area.
"We're pulling out just as much as we can before the rain, before they shut us down. We only have a small window of opportunity to get stuff out," said Nick Toth. "We've gotten a lot of valuables, a lot of personal items and important paperwork that people are going to need. Even small things like passports and IDs that folks couldn't get out before."
It may be hard to imagine, having only minutes to gather items acquired over a lifetime, but the pouring rain on Tuesday forced residents at the Bellaza Condominiums to move quickly. They were given only an hour and a half to salvage the last of their personal belongings.
News4Jax spoke to one resident who didn't want to go on camera, but she said she's thankful that her disabled mother made it out alive.
"(If it wasn't for) her neighbors that came knocking on the door, she wouldn't of been able to get out. She wouldn't have known to get out, so we're thankful to him wherever he is," she said.
Many residents said they were thankful for the opportunity to get their things, rain or shine, as they came together to help each other pick up the pieces just one last time.
"Everybody's trying to help each other out; it's a good thing," Toth said.
Investigators are still working to determine what caused the massive fire.