Man charged with arson, animal cruelty after San Marco apartment fire

Neighbors says pets were killed in suspicious fire

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man was arrested Tuesday on charges of arson and animal cruelty after an apartment fire that happened earlier in the day in Jacksonville’s San Marco neighborhood.

The fire broke out about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday on the second story of an apartment on Flagler Avenue near Cedar Street. Neighbors said pets were killed in the blaze.

News4Jax was the only crew there when Jacksonville police arrested the man, who said he entered the home to save the animals. The man had a bandage on his right arm, cuts on his elbow and soot on his clothes when he spoke to News4Jax before his arrest.

San Marco apartment fire
San Marco apartment fire (WJXT)

According to Duval County jail records, a 44-year-old man named Gerald Allen was booked at 3:35 p.m. Tuesday on one count of arson and two counts of animal cruelty and intentionally causing a cruel death.

Sources said the state fire marshal was investigating to see whether the animals were killed before the fire. Crime scene tape surrounded the home as the fire marshal documented the case.

San Marco apartment fire
San Marco apartment fire (WJXT)

“You could also hear somebody busting out the window,” said Mary Kinslow, who witnessed the fire from her father’s home next door.

She said the man was acting peculiar and she called 911 after seeing smoke coming from the second-floor apartment.

“I have never in my life come upon a fire,” she said. “And it was kind of scary.”

She was there as firefighters put the blaze out.

“They believe somebody started it and then came out,” she added.

Neighbors said Allen lived nearby, but not in that unit. They also told News4Jax he was set to be Baker Acted earlier.

Those who live nearby said they are sad that pets died, but are thankful the fire didn’t spread to other homes.

“Everything around here is pretty much wood, older buildings,” said neighbor Ray Eisenacher.

Allen appeared in court Wednesday where he learned he was not eligible for bond. A mental evaluation was requested.

About the Author: