I-TEAM: Previous fire violations at complex where major blaze sparked

3 children, 1 adult in critical condition after fire at Calloway Cove

By Kelly Wiley - I-TEAM reporter, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An apartment complex where a massive fire broke out Tuesday night had a history of fire code violations, the I-TEAM has learned.

The fire at Calloway Cove, formally known as Washington Heights, on Moncrief Road left three children and one adult in critical condition in the burn unit. 

Records show that the complex twice failed fire inspections last year.

In April 2018, inspectors found that the complex hadn't maintained its fire hydrant inspections, wasn't keeping the stairs clear, wasn't maintaining emergency lighting and hadn't inspected and tested a “backflow preventer.”

READ: Previous fire inspections at Calloway Cove/Washington Heights

The backflow preventer and hydrant still hadn't been taken care of when fire inspectors returned last June. The complex finally passed its inspection in October.

The complex scored an 82 on its most recent Department of Housing and Urban Development inspection in February 2018. Its two previous HUD scores were 67 and 60. HUD considers 60 a passing score.

When it was known as Washington Heights, the complex was part of an ongoing I-TEAM investigation into squalid living conditions at HUD properties owned at the time by Global Ministries Foundation. HUD inspectors identified 20 deficiencies in 2016, including a broken gas stove pilot light. 

Multiple sources have told News4Jax that a stove "blew up," sparking the fire that destroyed one of the units Tuesday. The state fire marshal will determine the exact cause of the fire. A spokesperson for the fire marshal said the investigation is ongoing and that no fatalities were reported.

"It was horrifying. It was scary," said James Kelly, who lives behind the Calloway Cove complex.

The property has since come under new ownership. The current owner, Millennia Housing Management, said in a statement that complex is undergoing a major renovation and the damaged building had not yet been renovated. (Skip to full statement)

Several people who live in the building said they smelled a strong gas odor and reported it to management before Tuesday night's fire.

The blaze left a dozen families picking up the pieces Wednesday. They are being assisted by the American Red Cross.

According to a spokesperson for the Red Cross, monetary donations can be made directly to the organization, but the donations will not be specifically earmarked for families affected by the fire. The organization does not accept items or supplies for fire victims, because it does not have the storage space.

Full statement from Millennia Housing Management:

At approximately 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 23, a fire was reported at 4229 Moncrief Road West at Calloway Cove in Jacksonville, Florida. The fire was contained to one building and affected ten occupied apartments.

We have received reports of residents being treated for injuries, and we are in contact with local authorities to stay abreast of their well-being. Damage from the fire displaced residents from ten apartments. Other than those residents being treated for injuries, all other affected residents are temporarily housed through the support of the American Red Cross, for which we are grateful.

Members of the Calloway Cove property management team are in the process of communicating with the affected households to express our support and coordinate immediate next steps during this time. The plan that is now underway calls for all the displaced household members to be rehoused at Calloway Cove.

As soon as the building is released to Millennia Housing Management, the necessary security measures will be put in place. The Calloway Cove community is currently undergoing a major renovation. The damaged building has yet to be renovated.

The Fire Department is reviewing the circumstances of the fire, and any questions in this regard should be directed to them. We are appreciative of their professional efforts and for the support we have received from the City of Jacksonville.

We are in the process of assisting the returning residents in securing the essentials needed to reestablish their home. Throughout this time, we will maintain communication with non-profit, public and private partners to address the needs of residents.

We are thinking of and praying for all those impacted by this tragedy.

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