JFRD: 9-year-old starts fire at Eureka Gardens apartments

Child was playing with lighter, firefighters say


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 9-year-old boy playing with a lighter started a fire Tuesday afternoon in his apartment unit at Eureka Gardens.

Eight fire trucks and 24 firefighters responded to the fire, and they were able to put the fire out within 5 minutes, Jacksonville Fire Rescue said.

The damage was contained to the bedroom, and no one was injured.

The boy lives in the home with his mother and three siblings. The youngest is 1 year old.

The Red Cross is helping the family, which has been displaced by the fire.

Eureka Gardens management said another apartment is available for the family in the meantime.

Eureka Gardens is in the process of being sold by the Rev. Richard Hamlet's Global Ministries Foundation.

The property on Jacksonville's Westside have been the center of a monthslong I-TEAM investigation into deplorable living conditions at the federally subsidized housing complex.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development invalidated its own inspection score for Eureka Gardens, the city conducted a code-enforcement raid spearheaded by Mayor Lenny Curry, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, successfully pushed for the passage of three amendments to overhaul the HUD inspection process.

Rubio also has requested federal investigations of GMF by the Justice and Treasury departments, HUD and a Senate committee.

GMF owns 61 properties in eight states, including several in Memphis, Tennessee, that are the source of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit by one of the foundation's investors.