JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A second person has died and another victim of a large fire early Tuesday morning is in critical condition at a burn unit, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Keith Powers said. News4Jax has learned the two nearby buildings that burned were registered with the state as a group home.
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said the fire started about 1 a.m. at a home on 1st Street and Huron Street near the Coca-Cola bottling plant. The flames spread and a nearby home also caught fire.
JFRD said at least 15 people were inside the two homes. Most of the people inside the homes were able to get out but firefighters pulled two others out who were taken to hospitals. One of those has died and the second transferred to the burn unit at UF Health Shands in Gainesville.
“Our crews did the very best to enter the structure where they could, to where it was safe,” said Capt. Eric Prosswimmer with JFRD.
Once the fire was out, firefighters found a body inside one home. The identity of the victims has not been released.
In addition to the injured, the Red Cross is providing help for at least a dozen people who were displaced. The State Fire Marshal has been requested to investigate the cause of the fire.
Property records show it’s owned by Lillie Blackshear. The home is zoned as “single family residential.”
The woman’s relatives said everything was legal and they had no major issues. They believed the fire was intentionally set.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation lists the address as the Westside Christian Home Care. It’s unclear if the license was active. News4Jax has requested state records.
According to code compliance with the city of Jacksonville., the authorities responded to four issues at that address between 2009 and 2017, including:
- 2 nuisance issues
- 1 residential issue
- 1 zoning issue
The business tax license from 2019 says it’s “totally exempt” from taxes. Investigators are looking to see if the home had proper safety features, like smoke alarms and a sprinkler system.
Records show in the past five years, Jacksonville police have responded dozens of times to the address for calls for service including:
- 16 mentally ill person calls
- 15 reported disputes
- 2 suicidal persons calls
- 1 death report
A man in the area who believes he knows the person found dead inside said he was shaken up by the news.
“There’s just so many losses and many things going on in this world. You never know when, you know,” Elmer Triplett said. “I know I lost my mom about two years ago, so I know the feeling."