Evicted tenant's apartment burns down in San Marco

Tenant claims kids broke in, started fire; blaze under investigation

By Erik Avanier - Reporter, Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter, Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter, Chris Norman - Morning Show Executive Producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A San Marco apartment fire Monday morning that sent one woman to a hospital has a tenant and property manager pointing fingers.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department crews were called about 6:20 a.m. to Lasalle  Street, where they found heavy smoke coming from a ground-floor unit of the apartment building.

Tenant Tonya Smith said she was getting ready for work when she smelled the smoke, grabbed her purse and keys, and then attempted to evacuate her apartment.

"Before I could get out the door, the smoke was so bad that I had to crawl down and go under the smoke to get out," she said.

Firefighters said they pulled another woman to safety from a second-floor apartment, and she was taken to a hospital for treatment because of asthma. She has been released and returned home Monday afternoon.

Christopher Yorkyy, who lived in the unit where the fire started, told News4Jax that he believes kids broke in and set the fire. He said he didn't see how the fire started, but that he saw kids in the apartment through the blinds and that they ran out when he went to the front door.

“I went to the front door. They came out. I ran in to try and stop the fire," Yorkyy said. "That spread too fast, couldn't stop it.”

But the property manager told News4Jax that Yorkyy had recently been served eviction papers because he was not complying with his lease. The manager, as well as the property owner, said Yorkyy was an ongoing disturbance and that police had been called to the apartment several times because of complaints by neighbors.

Court documents confirm that the eviction was finalized May 29. 

IMAGES: San Marco apartment fire

The State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire, which firefighters were able to get under control within 10 minutes.

Fire-Rescue said the quick response of crews prevented the fire from being devastating to the tenants who live in the building's eight units.The Red Cross was called to assist the displaced tenants.

Two units, including the one Yorkyy lived in, were destroyed in the blaze. Six more had smoke and water damage.

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