Barely three days into the new year and the Department is forced to witness a frightening scene on Thursday, January 3, just after 9 a.m., as Engine 51 is involved in a serious accident while responding to a trailer fire near Spanner Road. Somehow, a truck carrying diesel fuel fails to see the emergency vehicle as it approaches the intersection of Philips and Southside. Engine 51, in a frantic attempt to veer out of the path of the aforementioned vehicle, becomes unstable and subsequently crashes into the grassy median, coming to a rest on its side. The four firefighters in the cab are, naturally, flung about from side to side and sustain injuries, one firefighter more seriously injured than the other three. Following an exhaustive and extensive extrication lasting nearly 30 minutes, the critically injured firefighter is eventually pulled from the wreckage and flown to the Trauma Center at Shands Hospital. This injured firefighter, a rookie who just graduated from the Academy last month, represents a perfect reminder of the multi-faceted dangers found within the profession of emergency response: each and every call, and not just the actual incident itself, fully capable of delivering a potentially deadly or unexpected outcome.
Tuesday afternoon, January 15 at 3:30, the Department will officially welcome the newest and largest station to the inventory of 'home away from home(s)' for firefighters, specifically Fire Station # 31. With over 12,000 square feet of space, the station, located on Hillman on the west side of town, will feature characteristics never before seen at other stations, such as solar panels and a classroom capable of accommodating 30 students. These new and sophisticated arrangements are a welcome sight for the men and women of Station # 31, regularly ranked as one of our busiest stations with approximately 400 calls per month.
Wednesday, January 16, just after 8:30 in the morning, units responded to a single family, single story structure fire at 2569 Orion Street. As Engine 5 pulled up to the scene, they not only discovered smoke covering the house including the street in front of it, but also Union President Randy Wyse providing assistance to one resident fortunate enough to have escaped the fire. Being at the Union Hall merely a few blocks away, President Wyse had made it to the scene before dispatched units could arrive. The firefighters in PPE rapidly entered the dwelling with a charged line and soon extinguished the fire, but all help would come too late for a 64 year old black female discovered, lifeless, in a back bedroom. Firefighters noted that the stove in the kitchen, in very close proximity to the bedroom, had all four burners on, but whether or not that played any role at all in the fire had not been determined. One thing that was clear, however, is that no smoke detector could be found anywhere within the home: another tragic and unfortunate reminder of the lifesaving value directly affixed to that simple, yet essential household item.