Vagrancy found inside abandoned Jacksonville building after early morning fire

Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Duval County Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the cause of a vacant commercial structure fire Monday morning.Fire crews responded to West Union Street and Main Street around 5:15 a.m. and were warned about flames coming from a second-story window.

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Action News Jax found at least four fire crews on scene along with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. The fire was contained within an hour but police continued to block West Union Street as crews assessed the damage.

The Fire Marshal’s Office told Action News Jax there was evidence of vagrancy found inside the building where the fire originated. No reports of injuries were reported.

Several neighbors told Action News Jax they have seen people around this building before.

“A lot of vagrancy,” Neighbor Freddie Donaldson said. “Homeless people just floating around, nowhere to go. So I guess they sleep up under the bank and stuff like that.”

“There are a lot of homeless people around this area,” Neighbor Jeffrey Lindsey said. “So I assume anywhere they need to go anywhere to find shelter, they’re going to do that.”

Online records through the property appraiser listed this building under a local family who owns funeral homes around Duval County. Reporter Elizabeth Pace reached out to their offices to confirm and waiting to hear back.

Action News Jax reached out to the City of Jacksonville to learn how many buildings Downtown are vacant, and waiting to hear back.

“Going in and out of these buildings, anything can happen,” Donaldson said. “They get killed in these buildings, anything just like the fire.”

Neighbors argued abandoned buildings pose a threat to the surrounding area because of the uncertainty of the structure along with the homeless searching for shelter during the winter.

“It is a fire hazard, especially in the winter time,” Lindsey said. “I know we don’t get cold winters down here but they do need to get warm.”

Fire crews told Action News Jax they’re working with JSO to board up the building while they try to contact the owners.

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