Woman burned on 90% of body in apartment fire, mother says

State Fire Marshal's Office: Cigarette on sofa believed to have sparked blaze

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A woman was burned on 90 percent of her body in an apartment fire on McCoy's Creek Boulevard Friday afternoon, her mother said.

The blaze was believed to have been sparked by a cigarette carelessly left on a sofa, State Fire Marshal's Office Lt. Robby Stephens told News4Jax Friday night.

The first fire units to arrive at the scene about 2 p.m. saw flames shooting out the window of the first-floor unit. 

The woman, identified by family as Valinda Taylor, was rushed to UF Health Jacksonville with serious injuries. She was later taken to the burn unit at UF Shands Gainesville, where she was in stable condition at last check, family members said. 

"Anytime you have that much smoke and heat, if somebody is inside, then they will suffer pretty serious injuries," said David Young, a law enforcement detective with the State Fire Marshal's Office.

A man in that apartment escaped injury, firefighters said.

Three other units also sustained smoke and water damage, and the Red Cross will be assisting six adults and two children who are now displaced, according to firefighters.

"A lot of times, when we have a fire in the unit like this, it damages the wiring inside the walls in the ceiling area. And for safety reasons, JEA and other power companies shut off all the power to the building until it can be inspected," Young said.

Law Enforcement Detective Danny Yeager and Young searched for clues at the burnt apartment unit while Young's partner Fresca, a golden retriever-black Labrador retriever mix, sniffed for accelerants.

"There's nothing here that stood out to either one of us. She smelled some things, but it's normal stuff that's in there. A lot of our products that we use nowadays are petroleum-based, so that petroleum stands out to her sometimes, but were able to explain those areas," Young said.

Different family members came by the apartment to offer comfort to others, and to see for themselves what happened. There's no word yet on when the people living at the apartment building will be able to return to their homes.

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