The month of April began, as usual, with the reminder for all citizens to check their home smoke detectors during the annual daylight savings time clock adjustment, otherwise known as 'springing ahead' by one hour. Ensuring that batteries and other essential elements are all in proper condition to create a truly 'working' smoke detector will reduce the likelihood of perishing in a home fire by over 50%. Certainly the easiest and most economical thing to do to protect loved ones and property.
Unfortunately a home fire did claim the life of one person during the pre-dawn hours on Tuesday, April 5th. At approximately 5:30 AM, JFRD units responded to a report of a two story, end unit townhouse fire at 1252 Wonderwood Drive, Mayport Landing. Engine 41, first on scene, confirmed that the dwelling was not only fully involved, but that flames were leaping through the roof and touching the towering tree canopy directly above the structure, some 25 feet into the air. Even though the fire was brought under control in less than fifteen minutes, the firefighters did make a grisly discovery in the groundfloor bedroom, located immediately at the front of the townhouse: an unidentified, badly charred body laying on the ground. Naturally both the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Homicide Unit from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office were called onto the scene. The investigation into cause and actual point of origin is still ongoing as of this writing.
The week of April 10th through 16th is National Dispatchers Week, a nationwide effort designed to recognize those unsung heroes of public safety, specifically the communications professionals who staff the 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center. The Department is encouraging all members to seek out this indispensable link in the chain of emergency response and acknowledge their hard and dedicated work through simple acts of recognition, such as merely saying 'thanks' or stopping by the center and delivering a small token of appreciation. The strenuous work regularly performed by these exceptional individuals is often inadvertently overlooked or taken for granted. This week is officially intended to facilitate this reminder to all:the work of fire/rescue personnel would be impossible to perform without the expertise of the communications professionals. Thanks, team!
Late Friday night, specifically the 22nd of April, a warehouse located at 8th and Spearing turned into a blazing, 2nd Alarm inferno that saw units assemble and combat the fire well into the night or, early morning hours of Saturday. The 30,000 square foot structure presented a significant problem for those combatants in attendance, as the interior was stacked from floor to ceiling with sheetrock and drywall, essentially rendering any forward progress for an interior attack a moot point and useless endeavor. The overall structural integrity of the all-brick construction was soon compromised as the front, or 'southside' wall, partially collapsed and represented a considerable safety hazard to all actively involved on the fireground. Roof sector operations had been long since abandoned prior to the partial collapse, itself naturally accompanied with the crashing sound of approximately 50 feet of roofing that descended into the fiery pit below it. Nevertheless, combat sectors pounded the fire into submission, primarily led by the Eastside Sector ladderpipe of Ladder 4 coupled with the same 'drowning' effect created by the Southside Sector's main contributor Ladder 1. This truly laborious, manpower intensive evolution had many key components, not least of which was certainly the job performed by 'Accountability' in keeping track of the many companies and firefighters involved and, of course, Incident Command which ensured the timely arrival of both local utility (JEA) and railroad (CSX) representatives, whereby the close proximity of the railroad tracks to the incident necessitated the dispatch of the corresponding agency. After about 90 minutes the fire was considered 'under control,' but numerous hot spots still remained throughout the interior that were obviously now attended to by rapid response via crews with handlines. Crews would rotate through the night to keep an eye on things as investigators anticipated a lengthy process of sifting through mounds of debris in order to begin the process of determining what may have caused the fire. Initial damage estimates were in the vicinity of $1 million, with that figure expected to soar following the determination of the true nature of the contents inside the smokey ruins.
On a lighter note, Recruit Graduation ceremonies in April were, as usual, a smooth affair. Congratulations to all of the latest 'newcomers' who are now officially members of the Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department!