JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said 34 people are without a home after a fire broke out in a Lakewood Oaks apartment building Sunday.
Kyanta Washington is one of those whose apartment was on the other side of the one that caught on fire. Washington said she was in her apartment with her kids when she got a call from her neighbor that her unit was on fire.
“My neighbor downstairs in the other building called me he’s like, ‘Ky Ky, where are you?’ he’s like, ‘it’s smoke get out of the house, it’s on fire,” Washington said. “My daughter went to open the door and all the fire and everything just came in.”
She said she wasn’t able to grab any of her belongings.
“It’s all damaged,” Washington said. “All my stuff. I can’t even go in my house, it’s that bad. I can’t get anything out of my house.”
“Our neighbors came rushing up our balcony pounding on our door,” Daniel Neill, a resident at the apartment complex said. “They’re pointing outside and the whole awning of our building is smoke-covered.”
Neill said the fire started in his neighbor’s apartment. He said he was inside with his wife and two cats when he saw his complex up in flames.
“We share a wall,” Neill said. “I just looked out and I’m like, ‘oh my god, there’s bright orange and white flames shooting out the window.’”
Neill said his wife was taken to the hospital because of smoke inhalation.
“She’s fine, she’s good. I’m just happy they seemed to get everything under control,” said Neill.
There were seven kids and seven adults that lived in the apartment where the fire started on Smithfield Street near the intersection of University Boulevard and St Augustine Road. JFRD said the cause of the fire is still unknown.
“I’m just trying to figure out what to do next. I have to work in 12 hours. I’m worried about my family and what are we going to do next,” said Neill.
Neighbors in nearby buildings are scared for those affected by this fire.
“I hope they find a place because I don’t want this to happen to anybody -- it’s heartbreaking to see this happen,” said another resident, Sheila Reed.
The American Red Cross is assisting and the cause of the fire is under investigation. Christian Smith, with the Red Cross, says the size of the response is always tied to the size of the need.
“So if it’s a single family fire, we may only need one or two, well, two volunteers might come when we have a larger event like this and may require six or eight. So it’s really based on the number of people or number of families impacted, that we send the caseworkers the number of volunteers to help to assist them,” Smith said.
In fact, fires at larger apartment units can cause a more robust challenge for first responders.
“So, tactically, you’re looking at it, you’ve got to deal with a lot more area to cover where you’ve got — this was eight units. We have to search every one of those eight units for people inside,” explained Eric Prosswimmer, spokesperson for JFRD.
According to the Red Cross of Northeast Florida, this situation happens to about 550 families in the Jacksonville area every year.