More than 100 firefighters battle a fire Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, at the $65 million Rise Doro apartments. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9More than 100 firefighters battle a fire Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, at the $65 million Rise Doro apartments. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9
More than 100 firefighters battle a fire Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, at the $65 million Rise Doro apartments. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

Massive fire torches Rise Doro apartments Downtown

Published on January 29, 2024 at 11:44 am

City officials were already talking Monday about how to resurrect a 247-unit apartment building Downtown that was still burning more than 12 hours after it caught fire Sunday night, a month before it was expected to open.

The seventh floor of the $65 million Rise Doro apartments was gutted by a fire that started at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, with more damage to floors below. More than 110 firefighters battled the fire overnight at A. Philip Randolph Boulevard and East Adams Street, as smoke billowed for miles.

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Fire Chief Keith Powers called the fire “one of the worst” in the city in a decade. He said the building appeared to be a total loss, although that won’t be determined until engineers can get inside.

The fire started on a middle floor of the building. The first 911 call came from a security guard, Powers said.

The cause of the fire has not been determined. Powers said he did not know if there had been work at the building over the weekend. Investigators from the city and state are investigating the cause, and it could take days to fully extinguish the fire in every corner, he said.

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“It is not safe for us to put personnel inside,” Power said. Firefighters were worried a wall could collapse because the roof and some lower floors have been burned away.

“That means we have to work on it from the outside,” Powers said. “That means it is hard to get to.”

Smoke billows from the top floor of the Rise Dora complex Downtown on Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, as firefighters pour water into it from a ladder truck. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

Standing near the building Monday morning, Mayor Donna Deegan labeled the fire a setback for Downtown development.

“It’s extraordinarily disappointing. I’m going to be honest — it was one of the first things I thought about once I learned everybody was safe,” Deegan said. “We don’t want to see this sit here for a long time and have it not developed. So I am hopeful that we can move through this process.”

The developer, Rise Real Estate, hopes to build the property back up, she said.

Deegan said the city would work to find new housing for people who had expected to move in when the complex opened March 1. She said she did not know how many people that might be.

The Rise Doro development and 284-space parking garage sit across from the 121 Financial Ballpark. The project includes 4,875 square feet of ground-floor retail commercial and restaurant space, plus a 4,653-square-foot rooftop terrace with an indoor-outdoor public bar and swimming pool.

Rise Real Estate was granted up to a $5.75 million tax incentive for project in late 2020. The building occupies a 1.63-acre site that is also next to Intuition Ale Works and the Manifest Distillery on East Forsyth Street.

Construction began on the site, former home to the George Doro Fixture Co. buildings, after a tax incentive vote by the Downtown Investment Authority.

Part of the south side of the Rise Dora complex shows damage as firefighters pour water into its smouldering interior just before 7 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29, 2024. | Stacey Bennett, WJCT News 89.9

Firefighters were first called to the building about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, and firefighters thought the blaze was under control about 11 p.m. Sunday, Power said. But around midnight, the fire reignited as firefighters were pulled out of the apartment building.

Firefighters initially had issues battling the blaze because some stairwells had not been completed, Powers said. Unfinished spaces in the building allowed the fire to spread.

“A lot of the void spaces where the pipes go through and all that, once that’s completed, those are all sealed up,” Powers said. “But during the construction phase, they are open, and that allows fire to get into those hidden voids and move through the building. That makes it more difficult for us to extinguish.”

By early Monday, firefighters were flooding the smoking building from water cannons atop ladder trucks as water gushed in torrents from second-floor balconies. At least 20 firetrucks, rescue units and support vehicles were on the scene, Powers said.

Fire billows from one corner of the Rise Doro building at 5 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29, 2024, as firefighters continue to battle the blaze. | Michelle Corum, WJCT News 89.9

Deegan said she wanted to ensure that runoff from the firefighting efforts did not make it into the St. Johns River just blocks away.

Fire department drones spotted hotspots, but firefighters can’t get to them until the major fire is burned through, Powers said. He credited firefighters for working hard on the building’s south side to prevent it from collapsing onto Intuition Ale Works and Manifest Distilling and their flammable liquids inside.

Powers said the apartment building had piping for a sprinkler system, but the system did not activate, which is under investigation, he said.


author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.
author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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