The month of May will most assuredly become a memorable time for the Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department, with two groundbreaking ceremonies scheduled within a mere two weeks of one another. To begin with, Thursday, May 10th, Station 32 will see the 'dirt turn' followed by the official groundbreaking ceremony for new Fire Station #5 on Tuesday, May 29th. All dates are tentative and therefore subject to change.
Late Monday night, just before 11:30 PM, JFRD units responded to the report of a single family, single story structure fire at 2101 Alfa Romeo Drive in the Sutton Lakes subdivision located just off of Atlantic Boulevard in East Arlington. When arriving, Engines 30 and 58 reported that heavy flame and thick smoke were coming through the roof or, in the words of the crews, the 'place was gettin' it.' With the primary search underway and suppression work just in progress, a large number of 'cracklin'' and 'poppin'' noises could be heard in the direct vicinity of the fire ravaged home, sounds that seemed frighteningly similar to those of gunshots. At that moment, officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office appeared to inform everyone on the fireground to take cover as a suspect was being pursued; a suspect who was armed. No sooner had the crews pulled back to seek cover near the apparatus, when the word was given that the suspect had been shot by the police. Rescue 30 was escorted to the location of the victim, merely two homes down from the fireground, where the crew subsequently issued a 'D.O.S.,' dead-on-scene, evaluation. Meanwhile, 'back on the fireground,' any idea of interior attack had to be abandoned as the integrity of the structure began to rapidly deteriorate, including a partial roof collapse within the garage. Soon after, though, the fire was brought under control, with damage estimates in excess of $200,000 and the home deemed a total loss. Investigators at the scene found little difficulty in determining the fire to have been the result of arson, as gasoline containers and a 3 gallon bucket filled with gas were discovered outside of the home. No connection between the victim shot at the scene and the arson fire has been established, although early indicators do seem to provide a compelling and credible link.
As the Wildfires of southern Georgia and throughout vast areas of the State of Florida continue to threaten property and life alike, Jacksonville has now also received an in-depth and close-up look at the devastation that can result from this pernicious threat. Sunday, May 13th, fire forced the closing of Interstate 95 in northside Jacksonville for several hours. The fire, which burned throughout most of the day in a marsh near the Nassau County line, eventually consumed close to 500 acres but never seriously threatened any homes or other structures. Without significant relief in the form of extensive rainfall, the dry and windy conditions that have been so persistent will continue to ensure an overly active wildfire season for this region and many other areas of Florida and Georgia.