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Why Gainesville apartment complex caught fire twice in two days
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Gainesville Fire personnel respond to a fire Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, at Versailles Apartments on Park Hill Drive. - photo by Scott Rogers

Two fires over two days at a Gainesville apartment complex were caused by a water heater and smoldering embers in the roof, according to authorities.

The fires Monday, Nov. 30, and Tuesday, Dec. 1, at the Park Hill Apartments displaced 31 residents.

Gainesville Fire spokesman Keith Smith said the Monday fire started from an electrical issue with a water heater in the utility closet.

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According to the report obtained by The Times, heavy fire and smoke were coming out of the windows. Once inside, the apartment where the incident started had heavy fire throughout the living room, kitchen and hallway. All of the bedrooms had heavy smoke damage, according to the report.

The flames heavily damaged one apartment and moderately damaged another, and the resulting smoke and water damaged two apartments below them.

Smith said the fire was deemed accidental.

According to the report, fire personnel “performed vertical ventilation on the roof over the stairwell” by cutting a 4-foot hole and checked for fire extending into the common attic area. The report said only smoke damage was seen.

The scene was later turned over to fire inspectors, and fire personnel again checked the attic area with a thermal imaging camera “to look for any hot or smoldering areas,” according to the report.

Firefighters returned Tuesday to battle a fire again, and Smith said it has been ruled as a rekindling of the first fire.

“The building had a metal roof that had been placed on top of the older shingle roof, which is a common practice,” Smith wrote in a news release. “This does, however, create voids where unnoticed embers can smolder. With the heavy winds that day, the embers reignited and spread fire rapidly through the attic.”

Smith previously called the apartments the Versailles Apartments, but they are actually the Park Hill Apartments.

No injuries were reported in either fire.

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Gainesville Fire personnel battle a fire Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, at Versailles Apartments on Park Hill Drive. - photo by Scott Rogers