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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Apartment complexes aid families of year's largest fire

The day after the fire, the air still smelled of charred wood. Neighbors gathered around the fenced-off building and stared quietly.

The roof of the two-story building was gone, fallen walls and debris lay all over the ground. Looking at the surrounding trees, observers could discern where the flames had licked the leaves and left them brown.

The 16-apartment building at Paddock Club Apartments on Fort Clarke Boulevard was severely burned late Wednesday. It was determined to be a "total loss" by Alachua County Fire Rescue officials.

"It's pretty scary, we saw the smoke across town on 34th [Avenue]," said Luis Vargas, a resident of Paddock Club Apartments. "[My neighbor] said she didn't even open her windows and the whole room was glowing orange."

Each of the building's residents, 16 families in all, were displaced from their homes. Virtually all possessions inside the building were destroyed. No one was hurt, and all residents have been accounted for, said ACFR spokeswoman Carol Davis.

The State Fire Marshal's office sent officials down to aid in the investigation process, she said. The marshals have estimated the damage at about $1.5 - 2 million. Although they continue to investigate the cause, they know the fire began on the second floor, Davis said.

Many apartment complexes in town have joined to help the Salvation Army and Red Cross in their relief efforts, alerting their residents to the displaced families' needs.

E-mails are circulating that call for linens, bedding and pillows, food, clothing of all sizes, furniture and monetary donations to be brought to Paddock Club Apartments main office.

For more information about how you can help, contact the complex manager, Becky Sands, at 352-333-9922.

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