Jacksonville Fire Department personnel along with mutual aid from the South Jacksonville Fire Department responded to a call of a house fire at 337 West Lafayette Street at approximately 5:00 am.
Jacksonville Fire Department Captain Mike Martin says dispatch notified his crews while they were en route that the structure was already fully involved with fire.
“We arrived on scene and the D side, which is the west side of the house, was fully involved and issuing fire. We used a 3/4” line and brought the fire under control. Fire was already in the lower levels and after extinguishing that fire, it was already noted that it had burned through the ceiling and had extended to the second floor.
We brought that under control and continued an extensive overhaul of the fire. It had extended into the knee walls and into the void space between the drywall and the deck sheathing or roofing so we had extensive overhaul there as well.”
Captain Martin says no one was inside the house at the time of the fire and no firefighters were injured during fire suppression efforts. He says both the front and back doors were open when crews arrived.
No one was living in the structure at the time of the fire and no utilities were connected. Neighbors said that the house had a history of squatters coming and going from the home, but none had been seen in the last couple of weeks.
The fire is the latest in a string of suspicious fires in vacant homes in Jacksonville this year. On the morning of Sunday, May 5th fire gutted a single-story home at 320 Farrell Street. Police reported at the time that someone was seen entering the house and then quickly leaving again just before the fire broke out.
On May 23rd, a vacant house was distressed by fire at 607 North East Street. On March 15th, a house burned to the ground at the corner of Farrell and Beesley Streets. Ten days later another vacant home caught fire at 603 North Fayette.
Two adjacent homes in the 700 block of North Main Street burned in separate incidents in May and November of last year. In each case, no electric or gas service was active to the properties and each had been vacant for a length of time before they caught fire.
Jacksonville Fire Chief Doug Sills says the Office of the State Fire Marshal has been called in to investigate this morning’s fire on West Lafayette. Captain Martin says damages were estimated at $1,000 and given the state of the house it is considered a total loss.
He says the owner said he bought it a few years ago for $1,500 but found that it was not in good shape structurally and he was working to sell the property or possibly turn it over to the city. Fire crews were on scene for approximately three hours.