Four Jaunt buses and a townhome were up in flames when the Charlottesville Fire Department received a call for service around 2:40am July 13.
Alice Facknitz, who lives in the Carlton Bridge apartment complex behind the Jaunt station and the Linden Town Lofts townhomes, says she woke to what she later learned was the sound of bus tires exploding.
“I was woken up by a loud noise and my apartment shaking as if someone in a neighboring apartment slammed a door violently,” she says. “I looked out my fourth-floor window to see a column of black smoke and flames issuing from the top of a three-story condo about 50 yards away.”
When she exited her apartment, the first responders hadn’t arrived yet. As the flames climbed up the side of the townhome and were issuing from the top, Facknitz watched the firefighters position a truck’s ladder over the flames and began extinguishing the fire.
Captain Joe Phillips was on the scene before 3am, along with at least four fire trucks, two aerial units and eventually about 40 fire/rescue workers, according to a press release.
No one was injured during the fire that, according to Phillips, extended through a Jaunt parking lot, a wooden fence and into the end townhouse at 1013 Linden Avenue. That home, which is in a six-unit row, has severe damage, while the second in the row has extensive water damage. The remaining four were relatively unscathed.
“At one point, the fire increased in intensity just as it looked to be under control and they deployed another ladder truck,” she says, adding that it took until 3:30am for the crew to put the visible flames out. About 30 residents were outside watching.
Lindsay Bowerman, who lives in an apartment at Linden Town Lofts, says a number of the onlookers had been evacuated from their apartments, and she wasn’t given the all clear to reenter her’s until about 5:00am. The fire did not damage her townhome.
The Charlottesville Fire Marshal’s Office has determined that the fire began in the mulch area behind one of the buses, and was caused by radiant heat from its exhaust system. The preliminary damage is estimated to be over $850,000, according to Phillips.
Another fire is still under investigation across the street at 1009 Linden Avenue, where a building behind the Blue Ridge Roofing Company and multiple vehicles were destroyed in April.
Updated July 14 at 9am with comments from Lindsay Bowerman.
Updated July 17 at 10am with the cause of fire.
Additional photos below. Click to enlarge.