JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A four-story apartment building under construction on Jacksonville’s Southside burned to the ground before dawn Sunday morning in a fire that kept the eastbound lanes of Baymeadows Road blocked at Interstate 295 all morning.
Flames from the Fusion Apartment at Baymeadows being built along Baymeadows Road East spread to woods but the fire was stopped before it could spread into the neighboring Hampton Park neighborhood.
It took more than three hours for 110 firefighters to bring the three-alarm blaze under control, but lingering smoke is keeping roads in the area closed.
None of the firefighters called to fight the fire were injured, although their heart rates and temperatures are being taken assess heat exhaustion or other ill effects. Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Keith Powers said 14 engines and seven ladder trucks were needed to battle the three-alarm fire.
Powers said the fire grew quickly because the sprinkler system in the large, mostly wooden structure was not yet active. The only thing left standing by daybreak was the concrete-block stairwell in the center of the building.
Powers also said that due to the opening in September of Fire Station 63 on Gate Parkway, about one mile away, the building to the right was saved because crews were able to arrive on the scene sooner.
“It made a big difference having the station so close because we were able to get crews on scene and start fighting the fire and prevent it from spreading to the apartments," Powers said.
City Councilman Danny Becton sent an email Sunday afternoon thanking his fellow Council members for helping get that additional fire station open.
“They we critical in first responding and controlling this massive fire," Becton wrote. “A neighboring community, Hampton Park, was spared as the fire traveled through the woods only to be stopped in residents’ back yards.”
Several witnesses told News4Jax the flames shooting 50 feet into the air could be seen from I-295 and beyond. Brian McAtee was one of many people who called 911.
“I looked up and thought it shouldn’t be Orange over here,” McAtee said. “It looked like flames just pouring out of windows."
“I pulled over and called 9-1-1 to make sure someone reported it. By the time I did a u-turn, there was two firetrucks and EMS already here,” said McAtee.
David Wilkes, who lives nearby, heard the fire before he saw it.
“Since it such a nice evening I had the windows open and I heard a firetruck first and then I heard a cracking noise,” Wilkes said. “I saw the fire. From the length of the fire, it was all over the place.”
According to our news partner, Jacksonville Daily Record, Fusion is 384-unit multifamily project by Fort Family Investments at 8283 Baymeadows Road E. and Homeplace Drive -- across from the Fort Family Regional Park at Baymeadows.
“I got up and looked from the balcony and saw the light from the fire all over the place. First thing I said is that’s the new apartments going up in flames,” said Wilkes.
Summit Contracting Group Inc. is building the community of three four-story buildings on 8.63 acres that were the former home of the Plant Life Farms wholesale nursery, which moved to Salisbury Road.
By afternoon, most of the firefighters were gone and people came by to look at what was left.
“I looked in the fence in there and could see some smoldering spots,” Mark Bayless said. "To me, it don’t look like there’s a whole lot left to burn, really. But thank goodness nobody got hurt. That’s the good thing.