Jacksonville family displaced after house fire

'We tried to put it out,' says woman who lived in home for 26 years

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A woman, her teenage grandson, her adult son and her daughter-in-law were displaced after their Northwest Jacksonville home caught fire Monday afternoon.

According to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, crews responded about 3 p.m. to the blaze on Horne Street, just south of West 45th Street, in the Magnolia Gardens neighborhood. 

Firefighters were able to get the flames under control shortly after and the Red Cross was called to assist the three adults and teenage boy.

IMAGES: Fire damages Northwest Jacksonville home

Authorities have not said how the fire started. But Henrietta Ford, who had lived in the home for 26 years, told News4Jax that she believes it was electrical.

Her grandson, 17-year-old Howard Ford, said it all started when a fuse blew and the power went out. Resetting the electrical breaker started what he described as a "chain reaction."

At that time, Ford said, she was in bed when she felt heat on the back of her neck, looked up and saw flames coming from an electrical outlet that had an air conditioner and a flat-screen TV plugged into it. 

"It had blazed up. The clothes I had hanging in the corner caught on fire," she said. "Once it caught my mattress, with all the cotton in the mattress, it just set the whole room blazing."

As the flames spread to the hallway and then another room, the four inside then rushed to get out.

"It was a major effort to get out of the house because [Ford] was running from the back, my dad and stepmom were in their room, and I was in the kitchen. So it was a quick evacuation," Howard said. "I feel very lucky because it was a big fire.”

Everyone, as well as the family's dog, got out OK, and the family tried to battle the blaze. One of them tried to use a water hose, but said the flames were too intense. Firefighters then arrived and were able to knock it down.

"We were trying to put it out," Ford said. "We couldn't put it out."

Significant damage, such as charred walls and ceilings could be seen throughout the inside of the one-story house. The Fords said they lost everything, including furniture and personal belongings. They will be receiving help from the Red Cross, but will likely have to stay with relatives.

"I hope and pray that there is something there that's saved because I did have family photos on the dresser," Ford said.

There's no word on the amount of damage caused by the fire.

Experts: Older homes at higher risk for electrical fires

Ford's grandson said Monday's blaze was the third house fire that the family has been in. Howard told News4Jax that all three of the fires were electrical. 

According to fire experts, electrical issues are the fourth-leading cause of house fires.

WATCH: Family says cause of house fire was electrical

Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, said electrical fires can easily start in older homes that are not upgraded with more advanced electrical systems.

“Any new TV or electronics pull a lot of power," Wyse said. "If the wires aren't rated for that amperage coming through, then that can heat up, and that’s what caused the fire.”

As the cause of Monday's house fire is unknown, Wyse was speaking from his experience as a firefighter.

Wyse said many older homes that have not undergone electrical upgrades are only set up for a 100-amp panel, but newer homes are set up for 300 amps so that they can handled the increased electrical demand. 

He also said older homes that haven't undergone electrical upgrades likely have outlets that can't ground electricity. 

“A lot of times, what you will see also, is that older homes do not have ground plugs -- the bottom plug, which is the third plug in an electrical outlet," Wyse said. "You may only see only see two and that doesn't have a ground and that’s very dangerous when you’re using a lot of equipment that draws a lot of power.”

He said some electrical fires often start behind the wall, where the wiring is located.

"It could actually be burning inside that wall and you wouldn't even know it until it produces smoke or starts to scar the outside of the walls," Wyse said.

He added that people should never try to put out electrical fires with water. Instead, he said, use a fire extinguisher that is rated for electrical fires. 

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, electrical issues accounted for 9 percent of structure fires between 2010 and 2014. Of those fires, 16 percent resulted in death and 9 percent resulted in injuries. 


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