Neighbor saves lives when apartment building catches fire in Atlantic Beach

JFRD releases video of fire Friday and includes 911 call and radio transmissions

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – An apartment fire that destroyed a six-unit complex on Beach Avenue in Atlantic Beach early Tuesday morning spread to a home that was just 5 feet away, causing severe damage to that home also, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said.

JFRD spokesman Capt. Eric Prosswimmer said thankfully no injuries were reported in the multi-unit apartment fire.

But if not for the quick actions of a neighbor in the apartment complex, that might have been a different story, police said.

On Friday, JFRD released this video showing dozens of units battle this fire, it also shows a dog that got out alive about 52 seconds into the video. You can also hear a woman who called 911, upset about her cat. Radio transmission help set the scene, and the video ends with a description of the firefight.

“One of the residents, Greg, he, I guess woke up coughing around 1:30 and noticed he saw smoke, knocked on his downstairs neighbor’s door and the guy behind him and got everybody out. So if he weren’t to wake up, who knows?,” said Vanessa Carswell, who lives just around the corner from the fire.

“Greg” asked for privacy, saying he wasn’t ready to tell his story.

But Carswell praised his bravery.

“He made sure he got everybody out before he retreated over to the corner (once) everybody was out,” Carswell said.

She said she could see the flames from her balcony shooting high up over the rooftop.

“Definitely not what I wanted to see in the middle of the night,” Carswell said.

An apartment fire spread to a neighboring home on Tuesday morning

Firefighters were called to the oceanside apartment building on Beach Avenue and 10th Street around 1:45 a.m. and arrived within three minutes. They immediately called for back-up

Prosswimmer said firefighters faced several difficulties with the blaze, including narrow streets, heavy voltage powerlines nearby and the construction of the buildings that included highly flammable cedar shake siding.

He said the home that caught fire next door also was older construction with tongue and groove ceilings, which made it difficult to reach the fire in the attic.

Firefighters had the blaze under control by 3:43 a.m. JFRD said the apartments are a complete loss and the neighboring home has severe damage. The heat also melted the siding off the condos next door.

Neighbors were still processing what happened as the sun came up Tuesday.

“Some are fairly traumatized by it,” neighbor Scott Cairns said. “One of the owners of the houses that burned down said he’d lived there for 40 years and lost everything other than the pants he was wearing when he walked out the door.”

News4JAX spoke with one man who said he lost everything and only has the shirt on his back.

The State Fire Marshal is investigating.

A friend of the landlord who owned the apartments that caught fire started a GoFundMe for Greg. Anyone that wishes to donate can do so here.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.