ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Loved ones on Thursday said goodbye to a mother and child who died after an apartment fire the day after Christmas.
A celebration was held in Orange Park for Alexis Fitzgerald, 24, and her 4-year-old son, Rozae Fitzgerald.
The family invited News4JAX to attend, and we spoke with family members there.
“Our last memories unfortunately were on Christmas when Rozae had me lay down with him,” said Erica Brown, Alexis Fitzgerald’s aunt and Rozae Fitzgerald’s great-aunt. “It’s just those memories that we’re going to have to hold on to.”
Rozae Fitzgerald was born to Alexis Fitzgerald and her fiance, De’Vyon Green. After a fire last week, Green is the only one who remains.
But despite the devastating loss, he’s not alone.
“We’re just all coming together,” Green said.
Even Clay County firefighters were at the celebration of life to show support.
“I mean they’re very missed, and everybody here has it heavy on their heart to at least remember them in the best way possible,” Green said.
He is remembering pancake breakfasts, playtime with dinosaurs and his fiancee’s love for their son.
Alexis Fitzgerald’s 15-year-old sister, Mackenzie Fitzgerald, survived the fire. She was hurt but has since been released from the hospital.
“She’s going through a devastating time, actually being there,” said Scott Baswell, Mackenzie Fitzgerald’s father. “And that was her best friend, her sister.”
In the wake of the tragedy, the family is bolstered by love and support.
“I love cards — that’s my big thing right now. Anyone who gives me a card, I set them up in my room, and when I wake up in the morning and I just miss them, I just grab a card and just look at those words rather than just looking at a text message,” Green said. “The cards for me, is really, like, helps me out every single day and pushes me forward.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the family and pay for funeral costs.
Cause of deadly apartment fire remains undetermined
The gutted apartment building on Brentwood Lane is a reminder of the tragedy that happened there on Dec. 26.
The family’s apartment is hollowed out. At the front, well-wishers have created a memorial filled with toys and messages written in chalk on the wall.
Rozae, Alexis Fitzgerald and Mackenzie Fitzgerald were home when the blaze began. Multiple neighbors told the News4JAX I-TEAM that there was no noise from a smoke alarm at the time.
According to property records, the building is owned by a company called 461 Brentwood LLC. The Secretary of State’s website shows the business is located in Las Vegas. News4JAX was not able to get in touch with them on Thursday.
According to family members, Alexis Fitzgerald called for help and beat on the back window. A neighbor, who didn’t want to go on camera, said her brother heard the cries and brought a ladder, saving the life of Mackenzie Fitzgerald.
“We’re definitely very appreciative of him, and we can’t thank him enough. Thank God for him. Thank God for everybody involved — the firefighters, everybody,” Baswell said.
The family believes Alexis Fitzgerald turned back to try to save her son.
When firefighters arrived, Mackenzie Fitzgerald had already gotten out, and heavy smoke was coming from the front of the building. The sister of the neighbor who rescued Mackenzie Fitzgerald said he wasn’t able to go back for Alexis and Rozae Fitzgerald because the smoke and flames had grown too severe — a fact that still haunts him.
According to the report on the fire, which News4JAX obtained Thursday before speaking with the family, Alexis and Rozae Fitzgerald were carried down a ladder by fire crews. The report notes that the bystander had put a ladder up to the second-floor apartment before Clay County Fire Rescue arrived.
The report shows that a floor covering like a rug or carpet caught fire and that flames and smoke blocked the exits.
Both Alexis and Rozae Fitzgerald suffered smoke inhalation, according to the report.
The report states the cause of the fire remains undetermined. But the family said it started with the electric strip plugged into the Christmas tree.