• Photos from fire marshal investigation show cause of Jacksonville high-rise fire

    By: Jenna Bourne , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    Action News Jax now has photos the state fire marshal used in its investigation of Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments.

    The Fire Marshal's Office completed its investigation into the December 2017 high-rise fire that displaced about 200 people.

    The investigative report said the building is worth about $8 million and the fire caused an estimated loss of $4 million.

    The report said a man was asleep on a sofa in unit 816 when he was awakened by the smell of smoke and saw his air conditioning and heating unit was on fire.

    “I have a fire – an A/C fire. Air conditioner make fire. I cover it with my blanket,” the tenant told the 911 dispatcher.

    The fire marshal report said the tenant told investigators he also pulled the electric cord out of the wall outlet.

    You can hear him on the phone with 911 as he knocks on his neighbors’ doors to wake them up.

    Action News Jax reported in December that the city fire marshal had ordered Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments’ management company Cambridge Management to start a fire watch, where an employee patrols 24/7 looking for signs of a fire.

    That’s because the building’s fire pump was broken.

    The report confirms that not only was there no fire watch, a “maintenance person, who would not provide his name” to the fire marshal, said there were no overnight employees at all during the 3:30 a.m. fire.

    The report said the inside of the AC/heat unit was consumed by flames.

    The state fire marshal investigation revealed that “the cause was irregular electrical activity or a failure in or around the air conditioning unit” and “there were no other possible causes of ignition.”

    Video and photos from inside Jacksonville Townhouse Apartments show that management did not replace the AC/heat units in each apartment after the fire.

    “My air conditioner is still with black stuff all inside of it. Very, very old unit,” said tenant Dawn Richey.

    Two floors down from the apartment where the fire started, Richey said the unit that’s still in her apartment has been acting up for years.

    “I’ve lived a nightmare. I have documents from my own doctors about rashes and everything that I got because of my air conditioner that used to flood my floor all the time,” Richey said.

    Action News Jax has asked Cambridge Management twice in the past two weeks whether it plans to replace those units, but the spokesperson won’t answer our questions. 

    On Monday, Action News Jax reported the popcorn ceilings on the first eight floors were the source of asbestos disturbed by the fire.

    You can find a list of units and community spaces where asbestos was removed here.
     

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