The holiday season has arrived and with it the expected change in weather, with chilly temperatures now becoming the norm rather than the exception. Hopefully the community as a collective will remember and implement proper space heater and fireplace safety procedures, thereby helping in keeping this holiday season and the ensuing winter months free from tragedy. Pamphlets featuring tips on the aforementioned are available from our Fire Prevention Division. Some of the more noteworthy reminders featured in these pamphlets are, for example, to keep flammable materials at least three feet away from all space heaters and never attempt to refill a space heater while the device is still warm, while in an unventilated area, or with fuels not designed for the heater in question. Christmas safety tips always focus on Christmas lights and the reminder to never overload outlets and to throw away any and all lights that appear old, worn and/or frayed. These and many other safety reminders can be found in a variety of publications made available through our Fire Prevention Division. Please call 630-0445 for more information or to obtain copies of these and similar publications.
Just before the 'crack of dawn' on Friday, December 9th, JFRD units were dispatched to what would soon turn into an incredibly intense and raging inferno at the NAPA Auto Parts store located at 5828 University Boulevard West. Specifically, the fire at the one-story, 15,000 square foot building was reported at 3:35 AM and first arriving units found the rear section of the building fully-involved. The fire spread so rapidly that interior sectors had to be abandoned, with ladder pipes quickly erected to protect exposures and bring the fire under control. With flames leaping through the roof at over 40 feet, the collpase of a portion of the roof was only a matter of time and resulted in firefighters needing nearly an hour to get the blaze fully under control, with a complete second alarm assignment present to accomplish the aforementioned. Damage estimates were not immediately available but are believed to be in the hundreds of thousands and closely approximating one million dollars. Investigators from both the local and state level had yet to reach a conclusion as to the actual cause.
Less dramatic but nonetheless as devastating to the homeowners as the commercial second alarm previously described, was a W3 single story, single family residence fire Monday morning, December 12th, at 8:30 AM at 10684 Talon Court. The homeowner had apparently activated a window A/C unit for reverse heat-flow when flames popped out near the unit located within a Florida Room-style enclosed rear porch. Soon the fire spread along the wall, engulfing the aluminum ceiling and styrofoam insulation. The fire quickly rolled over the exterior wall and began to spread through the attic before JFRD units arrived at the scene and stopped the flames near the point of origin. No injuries were reported and damage estimates were not immediately available.
Shortly after 4 PM on Monday, December 12th, Fire and Rescue units were dispatched to a house fire on 21st Street West and North Pearl. Upon arriving, units could see that the front entry of the single story, woodframe house was fully involved. Although the fire was quickly extinguished, the 'real' story for this incident proved to be the brave and courageous efforts by several civilian bystanders. It appears that several individuals noticed the fire with one passerby entering into the home and removing a 4 year-old male from the front living room area, and another civilian carrying a 46 year old female to safety from the back porch location of the burning residence. The aforementioned female was transported to Baptist, with the child and the two good samaritans treated and released at the scene for smoke inhalation.
The very next day, the 13th of December, JFRD found itself involved with an extremely taxing emergency as a 10 inch natural gas line was severed by construction crews working at 10th Street East and Evergreen. The amount of product escaping into the environment created a dangerous situation for local residents prompting an immediate evacuation order. Executed to perfection by JFRD and JSO, the evacuated area soon encompassed 8th to 11th Street and Phoenix to Spearing. Approximately 25 people were in need of shelter, a task that was professionally coordinated by our Emergency Preparedness Division and local Red Cross. 4 JTA buses were brought to the scene to provide immediate shelter from the elements, with subsequent transport provided for those in need to the actual shelter located at 2650 Park Street, specifically 'Riverside Baptist Church.' With representatives from TECO gas at the scene, firefighters joined in the repair work designed to cap off the cut. Working through the night and trying several approach mechanisms, it was soon realized that the combination of the size of line and subsequent pressure with the cut itself could not be repaired without actually closing off the entire line. Around midnight the line was finally shut off, and the Third Alarm assignment began to exit the scene. Repair work was completed later on in the day, with service gradually restored to each business and residential unit as the day progressed.
On Tuesday morning, the 27th of December, units were called to a single-story residential structure fire at 1111 Albert Street. Ladder One was the first unit on scene and immediately confirmed that heavy smoke and flames were visible, primarily at the front of the home. It is here, specifically on the porch, where the crew encountered an elderly gentleman proclaiming that his stepson was still inside the home, somewhere in the back portion in a bedroom. The crew entered into the hot and smokey residence and found, on the floor of a bedroom, the 39 year old male. Extricating the victim from his predicament and rushing him with Rescue 2 to Baptist proved too little, too late, for a short time later word reached back to the scene that the patient was pronounced dead at the hospital. According to the stepfather, sparks exiting from an electrical outlet in the front living room area of the house quickly turned into flames that began creeping up the wall toward the ceiling. The stepson joined in with the elderly man in attempting to extinguish the fire by retrieving water from the nearby kitchen and splashing same onto the rapidly expanding fire. When these actions failed to yield results, the stepfather retreated from the scene by escaping onto the front porch through the entry door, while the stepson apparently attempted to save the family cat, last seen in the rear of the house. It was in that vicinity where the crew from Ladder One subsequently discovered not only the bedroom containing the body of the victim, but also the dead family cat.