Auto shop fire is the 5th business fire on the Westside in the last six months

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- Another business goes up in flames on the Westside of Jacksonville. BLC Automotive shop on Blanding Boulevard is the 5th business to catch fire in the last six months.

At around 4:30 a.m. Monday the shop was engulfed in flames.

"More crews were called to the scene, turned out to be a large working fire, a second alarm fire," said District Chief Donald Blanton, JFRD.

About 60 firefighters battled the blaze. The owner of the auto shop Mark Fleming says he learned not only was it a fire, but someone broke in and stole the company's safe which he says had a substantial amount of money.

"You work hard and you try to save some money. We've been working hard for the community to try to provide a good service and something like this happens, it is pretty devastating," said Fleming.

The fire is the eighth one on the Westside in the last six months. Since September the Church of the Epiphany on Harlow Blvd. has been on fire four times, the Value Place Extended stay under construction on 103rd street was also engulfed in flames in October, four days later a former Bennigan's restaurant on Blanding Blvd. was on fire and on February 10 a vacant video store on Blanding Blvd. also caught fire. Fleming says he was aware of the previous fires, but wasn't concerned because they were abandoned or vacant properties.

"I've noticed here lately they are down the street, the church got burned, the video store, I really wasn't too concerned about that I never figured that we would be robbed like this but I guess I'm fortunate that nobody got hurt," added Fleming.

Fleming says he doesn't know the extent of the damage yet, but says he recently spent $25-thousand to renovate the lobby of the business which is now damaged. He says several cars were also damaged in the fire.

"That's the real devastating part that the customers were affected, the money for me yeah it hurts, but customers and the inconvenience that they are going to come up with over this, that's a very heartening thing for me too," said Fleming.

Fleming says he apologizes to his customers for the inconvenience. He says the business will be down for a few days and anyone wishing to contact him should email: BLCAuto@yahoo.com.

First or you, Chuck Phillips from Kustom, a local full service restoration company, says he has seen an increase of arson in the Westside area and says even though he does not see any visible patterns with the businesses involved, he recommends business owners keep their properties well lit, put up camera security systems and should be vigilant of any suspicious activity.

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