This year's annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 13, at 10 a.m. As is customary, the event will take place at Fire Station #1 located at 611 Liberty St. and feature the ceremonial placement of wreaths at the Memorial Wall.
During the early morning hours of Oct. 11 (shortly after 4 a.m.), units from the Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department were dispatched to a structure fire at 109 Halsema Road South. The location, 'International Paper,' is a lumber processing, industrial plant wherein wood products receive, among other processes, a 'drying' evolution inside a 'kiln.' The kiln, the equivalent of an oven, is fueled by a mixture of natural gas and sawdust with the resulting heat spewed forth from vents onto 15 foot tall pallets of 2x4's stretching approximately 40 feet inside the kiln. Somehow pallets inside of the kiln actually caught on fire, related to a possible failure with the kiln's monitoring system, leading to a massive inferno that thankfully remained laregly inside of this industrial 'oven.' Pallets outside of the entrance to the kiln where the fire was occurring (there are three kilns in total within the complex) did ignite as well, presenting an obstacle for firefighters attempting to gain access to the actual seat of the fire. As firefighters worked to get closer to the point of origin, flames began to break through the roof of the kiln, with some reaching as high as 50 feet into the early morning sky. The heavy fire load soon caused a partial roof collapse despite more than 50 firefighters constantly fighting to contain the fire. After nearly four hours of continuous battering and struggling with the well-fueled blaze, an all clear was provided but not without the general disappointment of realizing that damage estimates were expected to exceed $1 million as the kiln certainly proved to be a total loss.
As the month of October comes to a close, it is once again time to perform the annual 'fall back' task of resetting clocks by one hour. As usual, the Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department will utilize this opportunity to remind everyone to change the batteries in home smoke detectors and ask that home fire safety issues receive a solid evaluation by all family members. For anyone desiring a free smoke detector, please call our hotline at 630-7842.
Despite the previously mentioned admonition, a tragic early morning fire that claimed a life could have been avoided had a working smoke detector been present inside the home. Shortly after 7 A.M. on Monday, October 30th, JFRD units responded to a report of smoke visible from a single story, single family dwelling located at 613 Comet Street in the Murray Hill region of the city. Firefighters had to force their way into the home and, upon entering, discoverd the body of a 47 year-old woman directly inside of the front living room against the door. Despite prompt attention and immediate transport to Shands by Rescue 10, the woman was pronounced dead at the hospital only a short time after. As alluded to, no smoke detectors were found within the home. The cause of the fire appears to be attributable to a combination of smoking and the presence of oxygen bottles, as the woman was apparently quite ill requiring the use of a hospital bed within the living room area.