Unoccupied Home on South Church Owned by the City Deemed a Total Loss in Suspicious Fire

By Benjamin Cox on January 29, 2024 at 3:20pm

An unoccupied city-owned house burned under suspicious circumstances overnight.

According to a Jacksonville Fire Department report, a resident of the Beecher Hi-Rise Apartments called dispatch shortly before midnight reporting a heavy smell of smoke in the area. The caller then investigated the origin of the smoke personally, and walked down to an unoccupied former apartment house located at 329 South Church Street and reported seeing smoke and flames on the second story. Shortly after that call, a neighboring residence also reported a fire in the home.

Jacksonville Fire Captain Michael Martin says that upon arrival to the scene, firefighters could see fire coming from the rear roof of the structure: “We did a 360-inspection to take a look at it, and determined that the entire attic was involved. We pulled several hand lines to keep it under control. We set up the aerial to make an aerial master stream and extinguished the home. We were on the scene until after 7AM. We left a truck there due to the extensive damage of the roof. The entire roof had collapsed in, or the majority of it, layering it. It was not safe to be in the home because it had sustained so much damage. The home was unoccupied. The City of Jacksonville had possession of it. At this time, the fire is deemed suspicious. The State Fire Marshall was contacted. They are in town at this time. The house had no power, no gas, and no legal tenants so it’s automatically being ruled suspicious in nature.”

According to the fire department’s report, a Jacksonville firefighter who had cleared a fire alarm call at approximately 11PM reported a smell of smoke in the area while returning to the West Douglas Avenue fire station, but could not locate any visual signs of a fire at that time.

The Balloon-construction home has been deemed a complete loss. A vacant residence directly south of this structure, at 325 South Church Street, also burned under suspicious circumstances in September 2023.