October represents the month when the Fire/Rescue Department regularly features two major events: Fire Prevention Week and the Fallen Firefighter Memorial Ceremony. This month, Fire Prevention Week kicks off during the second week of October, with everyone throughout the community invited to visit their local Fire/Rescue Station for tours and pertinent safety awareness information. The Fallen Firefighter Memorial Ceremony, featuring among others the Honorable Mayor John Peyton and distinguished guests from our City Council, will take place on Monday, October 10th at 10 AM. The site is, as usual, the Memorial at Fire Station #1 located at 611 Liberty Street.
Although the First Coast was relatively safe from the many storms that ran roughshod over coastal regions throughout many of our southern neighbors this year, Tropical Storm Tammy made a surprisingly brief, but nonetheless 'wet' appearance over our area early Wednesday, October 5th. It certainly served as a reminder to everyone how fortunate we are to have been spared the horrific weather conditions spawned by the major Hurricanes of this season. Tammy raced through Jacksonville, with a speed that assuredly lessened the overall impact of the storm to our region, but still managed to create flooding scenarios in many of the sections of the city historically prone to such water-logged activity. The at times heavy downpours and high winds made traffic conditions deplorable, with many accidents reported throughout the storm's presence. Thursday morning, October 6th, saw a significant portion of highway along I-295 north, between Commonwealth and I-10, close down beginning at approximately 5:30 AM due to an accident involving several vehicles and a fuel tanker truck. The 3500 gallon tanker, carrying nearly 2500 gallons of diesel fuel, flipped and landed on its side with a 6-8 inch gash along the metal roof of the tank. Although close to 500 gallons of fuel managed to escape from the leaking container, Engine 32 and the HAZMAT Team ingeniously closed the hole by inflating an air bag and utilized same to apply direct pressure to the opening, thus preventing any additional diesel from seeping into the nearby wooded areas. No injuries were reported from the accident, but miles of backed-up morning commuters suffered as their regular travel routes were completely altered from the effects of this incident.
Despite numerous fires through the mid-October timeframe, the majority of the attention from virtually everyone within the Department and, for that matter, the Jacksonville community at large, was most assuredly directed at Hurricane Wilma and her potential impact on Florida. With the storm landing near the Florida Keys, the Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department dispatched the Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) along with other fire/rescue units to the impacted region beginning on Sunday morning, October 23rd. With preliminary reports indicating that the area suffered primarily from flooding and power outages, it is expected that the deployed teams could return as early as Wednesday, October 26th.
As mentioned previously, a number of fires were registered recently throughout many areas of the city but none attracted quite as much media interest as the one that occurred in a two-story single family dwelling in Queen's Harbor on Monday afternoon, October 24th. That particular fire, although confined to a two-car garage, evoked plenty of interest as the homeowner proved to be none other than star linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike Peterson. The firefighters called to the scene quickly brought the blaze under control and subsequently chased a few extensions and hot spots. These were threatening to move through the attic into the main residential portion but, after pulling insulation and other materials off the wall near a bonus room in the vicinity of the garage, were soon extinguished leaving only superficial smoke damage to the main dwelling. Despite these efforts, the garage and all contents therein were considered a total loss with an estimated $450,000 in damages. Quite a significant sum for a garage, but the contents in question contained, among other items, a 1967 Lincoln Continental and 1972 Chevy Impala. Investigators were called to the scene to determine the cause of the fire which seemed to have as a point of origin the totally destroyed garage.
As the weather begins to cool and everyone prepares to 'fall back' on Sunday, resetting clocks back one hour, it is time once again to remind each and every citizen of Jacksonville to check the 'operational readiness' of every home smoke detector. Be sure to have a home fire safety evacuation plan ready, practice your escape route and outside gathering place with family members, and be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's guide to any space heater used in the home.