JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An inspection completed Friday by the State Fire Marshal's Office found a number of code violations at the Calloway Cove Apartments, where a recent fire injured several people and left a number of families homeless.
While the official cause of the large fire is still under investigation, the News4Jax I-TEAM learned Thursday that a gas service company had been called multiple times to the apartment complex to inspect gas lines. Neighbors said the fire started with a loud boom.
There were eight noted fire code violations in the inspection, including a failure to provide appropriate carbon monoxide monitoring and installation in the complex, and failure to provide working smoke detectors throughout the facility. Other issues noted in the report include failures to:
- Update fire extinguisher inspection tags
- Ensure proper permits are pulled for any work performed on property
- Properly use multi plug adapters
- Maintain operation of emergency lighting
- Provide required covers for electrical panel boxes
- Properly store grills
Fire Marshal Chief Kevin Jones said the fire inspection was annual, and inspectors only looked through occupied apartments after being given consent.
On Friday, News4Jax obtained calls that were made to 911 as the fire burned.
"It was an explosion, and it is now spreading over to other apartments," one caller told a dispatch operator. "The kids. The poor kids."
A spokeswoman for Millennia Housing Management, the property owner, said the company is working to get the families back to their homes. She issued a statement that reads in part:
"Several households were relocated to nearby hotels. During the inspection process, we immediately engaged licensed professionals to remediate the issues identified. We continue to work with partner organizations to provide resources such as housing accommodations and meals."
The I-TEAM found many families were told to evacuate their apartments and were then bused to a hotel near the airport. Families say they were told to evacuate because of a gas leak following Tuesday’s fire.
“It’s been a very unorganized, scary situation, and it being unorganized is making it so much worse on our families. All the families out here,” said Calloway Cove resident Barbara Snow. “Most of us out here are parents. We want our children to feel safe and they don’t.”
The I-TEAM asked the city about what code enforcement workers found during their inspection. A statement from a spokesperson reads in part:
"In some cases, the inspectors indicated additional safety measures needed to be in place. The ownership group is working to get these rectified as quickly as possible."
According to the city spokesperson, Millennia Housing said donations of material goods are being delivered to the community center at Calloway Cove, but the donations are creating an issue due to limited storage. Once the complex has completed an assessment of each family, it will make a list of needed items.
The complex expects to have the assessment completed in less than a week and would appreciate donations at that time.
The state fire marshal has not determined the official cause of the fire, but neighbors said it started with a loud boom. The fire left three children and a mother hospitalized with critical injuries.
The I-TEAM learned Thursday that TECO Energy, the gas service company for the apartment complex, cut the gas off at the building affected by the fire. The company had been called multiple times to the complex to investigate gas lines.