Neighbor recounts fire where body was found

UPDATE: The person who died in the fire has been identified as Regina Lena Walker, 35, according to Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer Mike McCall.

Original story below:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A longtime Jacksonville resident is recounting what he calls a scary experience early Thursday morning.

Stefan Stears says he has lived on Catawissa Court on the city's west side for more than 20 years.

"We live at the end of the dead end here. It's pretty quiet," he said.

But around 2 a.m., Stears says he heard three explosions coming from next door.

"It was kind of a deep, bass, vivacious explosion. I felt it in the couch. (I) felt it in the ground," he said.

Stears says he rushed outside to see what was happening and found a fire coming from his neighbor's mobile home.

He said, "The fire wasn't that large at that point. It was coming through one window of the trailer."

Stears began taking photos with his phone as the fire continued to grow. At one point, flames where shooting into the sky from several of the mobile home's windows.

"Apparently, the back bedroom had been burning for a few minutes and had just busted out the first window, so that's kind of what I heard," he said.

One of his photos shows Jacksonville firefighters with a hose going through a door. First Coast News' Jacob Long shared the photo on Twitter and heard back from the firefighters' union.

The union tweeted that crews in the photo were attempting to offer any survivors their best chance at survival. But in this case, one person was found dead inside.

Sgt. CB Shivers with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said the person's identity is not being released at this time. He also would not say if the person owned or lived in the mobile home.

Several people later showed up at the scene claiming to be family and worried that their loved one was deceased. None of them wanted to speak with First Coast News.

Stears couldn't say for sure who might have been inside the mobile home.

He said someone new moved in after his former neighbor went to jail. "I have no clue. They're fairly new. They've only been there a couple months."

Right now, Shivers said the incident is being investigated as an undetermined death. The State Fire Marshal's Office is assisting local agencies with their investigation.

A cause of the fire has not been released yet.

It's also unknown if this incident is connected to a string of other fires on the west side. There have been around 10 reported fires dating back to last fall.

Some have been ruled suspicious or arson. This is the first incident in which a death has been involved.

Stears said it's hard to believe something like this would happen.

"Things stay pretty quiet, so for something like this to happen so close to home, it's really crazy," he said.


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