Jacksonville senior apartment complex was supposed to replace fire pump day before fire


Jacksonville fire rescue officials say 115 people were displaced after a fire at a high-rise apartment complex Monday.

Video showed flames coming from an eighth story window at the Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments on Philips Highway before 4 a.m.

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According to documents, the apartment complex serves as Section 8 housing for elderly residents.

Jacksonville Fire Rescue officials say at least six people, including a firefighter, were taken to the hospital after the fire.

Firefighters went from room-to-room searching for residents. At least 115 people are at a shelter on Spring Park Road because of the fire, officials say.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority provided buses to help people evacuate.

Documents show the fire marshal wrote a letter to Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments on Dec. 1 saying the fire pump and/or sprinklers did not work.

The letter said the building must be evacuated or employee must conduct an hourly fire watch.

The company that manages Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments says management believes all sprinklers and smoke alarms were working Monday.

On a fire inspection notice from Nov. 30, leadership at Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments told the Jacksonville Fire Marshal they would replace the building’s broken fire pump by Dec. 17.

That would have been the day before the fire.

Action News Jax checked the building’s permits, and the last permit was issued in 2016.

That means the Section 8 housing’s leaders have not even requested the permit it’s supposed to have before it replaces that fire pump.

Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments had until Dec. 30 before the fire marshal was scheduled to re-inspect.

A Dec. 1 email from the fire marshal said inspections show the fire pump was not working.

In that email, the fire marshal gave Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments the option to do a “fire watch” or to evacuate the building.

A fire watch requires the building to have a security guard or employee whose sole job is to patrol the building hourly checking for signs of smoke or fire.

The building’s management company, Cambridge Management, told Action News Jax all fire sprinklers and smoke alarms worked as intended.

The company sent the following statement:

"Our hearts go out to our residents who have been affected by the fire at Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments.
At this time, we are conducting an internal investigation to ensure that fire safety protocols were followed and to identify any instances of non-compliance. We will fully accommodate the needs of the fire marshal and investigators throughout the investigation process.
We are grateful to the American Red Cross for the services their staff and volunteers are providing to our displaced residents. We look forward to serving our residents in any way possible until this matter is resolved and are working to restore their homes as quickly as possible."