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Friday, June 21, 2024

James Griffin was watching TV with his dog Lily early Monday afternoon when he heard what he thought was a tree branch fall on his apartment.

The 50-year-old walked out of his door at the Cottages on Market Street expecting to find roof damage and a rogue oak branch. Instead, he saw his neighbor’s kitchen window engulfed in flames.

Emergency rescue workers responded to the fire at 725 SE Fifth Ave., unit No. 725, at 12:49 p.m. Griffin shared the cottage with two other tenants.

Outside, the damaged apartment’s resident, recent UF graduate Mimi Seldner, and her boyfriend, Lee Johnson, embraced each other as they cried. Their dogs, Lola and Bratwurst, were trapped inside when the fire started.

Gainesville Fire Rescue is investigating the cause of the fire, investigator Kelly DeRasmo said.

The fire was contained to the kitchen of the apartment it started in.

Lieutenant paramedic Sean Campbell, one of the first on the scene, said the fire was extinguished quickly enough to prevent it from ruining the cottage.

Joni McBride, Seldner’s 67-year-old neighbor, rested nearby in a lawn chair. Its plum-colored finish matched the cottage’s unblemished exterior.

“I thought the dogs weren’t inside,” she said. “Those poor babies.”

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