Venetia fire station, school suffer flood, fire damages

Venetia fire station, school suffer flood, fire damages
Duval County Public Schools District maintenance crews worked to clean up fire-damaged portions of the Venetia Elementary School cafeteria. (Photo courtesy of Duval County Public Schools)

The Venetia community certainly had its share of disasters in late 2017. Many residents with homes on or within a few blocks of Yacht Basin, a tributary of the St. Johns River, suffered extensive damage to their homes, thanks to the Sept. 11, 2017 hurricane.

Hurricane Irma and the related storm surge also caused nearly $75,000 in damage to Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Station 23, located at 5323 Ortega Blvd. Lloyds Construction was contracted to clean up, repair and replace damaged items, including the HVAC system.

The station had just returned to pre-hurricane normalcy the week of Dec. 11 when a fire broke out at the Venetia Elementary School in the early morning hours on Dec. 15.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Laureen Ricks, Duval County Public Schools District supervisor of media relations.

“Preliminary assessments found fire damage on the stage in the cafeteria and smoke and water damage in the kitchen area,” said Ricks.

District maintenance teams and contractors spent the next two days cleaning the school, clearing debris, and discarding damaged and/or unsafe items. On Dec. 18 they began a demolition process which may take several weeks, said Ricks.

“The preliminary timeline is three months for reconstruction for cafeteria and kitchen, with preliminary cost being $200,000,” she said. “Keep in mind that this cost is preliminary and is not inclusive of all repairs needed. Nor does it include cost of cleaning or replacing damaged items.”

Venetia Elementary students were welcomed to finish the semester at John N.C. Stockton Elementary School, as enough empty classrooms were available to facilitate the need.

“Venetia will most likely be ready for students to return after break,” Ricks said. “The plan is for food to be prepared offsite and delivered to the school, while the kitchen and cafeteria are being worked on. We are thankful no one was hurt, and the damage is limited to the cafeteria.”

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