The month of August 2010 did not waste any time in presenting a challenge for the men and women of the JFRD, particularly those emergency responders assigned to the city's westside. Late Tuesday evening, 3 August, units were dispatched to the report of a structure fire at 8406 Blanding Boulevard; soon heavy smoke and fire were reported visible from the over 4,000 square foot building, a now vacant restaurant formerly home to a 'Steak and Ale.' After approximately 15 minutes of the initial attack Command issued a Second Alarm, fully aware that the unusual interior facade and double roofing of the structure would eventually result in a time consuming search for extensions as well as prolonged hot spot management. The fire itself was called under control after nearly 45 minutes, with the roof never once breached by flame and damages sustained by the well over one million dollar property limited to less than $500,000. The fire itself was quickly deemed suspicious as the building had no power, storm activity in the area had been non-existent that day, and vagrants had been routinely observed around the building day and night. Those suspicions were then promptly confirmed the next day, as investigators discovered the remnants of an accelerant around the front entrance door to the structure.
Friday afternoon, August 6 at approximately 2 PM, units were dispatched to the report of a structure fire at 6048 Holly Bay Drive located in Arlington. The single story, single family brick home had heavy smoke and flame clearly visible from the back as the first units arrived on (the) scene. As the crews from Ladder 30 and Engine 27 approached the structure they were promptly met by the three adult occupants of the home, safely outside and accompanied by one large dog. The adult male anxiously informed the firefighters that two other family pets, also dogs, were still trapped inside. With the fire thoroughly brought under control in less than 15 minutes, the sad discovery of the two missing and now deceased dogs was made. The house sustained nearly $60,000 in damages to both content and structure, and the Red Cross was required to provide assistance to the three adult occupants. The investigation determined that the fire started in a rear bedroom but a definitive statement regarding causation could not be achieved; however, a poignant discovery was made in the form of a disabled smoke detector found, smoldering and without a battery, on the kitchen counter top and less than 10 feet from the fire's point of origin.
Tuesday evening the 10th of August, just before 10 PM, units were dispatched to Lenoir Avenue for a reported structure fire. The specific details indicated that a 5 story hotel, the Red Roof Inn, had smoke visible on the 5th floor, with the alarm and sprinkler system active and evacuation procedures in full swing. The first arriving unit, Ladder 21, promptly confirmed the initial account and rapidly made their way to the seat of the fire, a linen room on the fifth floor. Although the activated sprinkler system had not only performed some extinguishing duties and generally prevented the fire from spreading, the crew from Ladder 21 needed to finish the job and the fire was eventually called under control within 20 minutes. The rest of the activity was now primarily relegated to ventillation and other typical post-fire operational measures, with hotel management tasked with finding new accommodations for 80 hotel guests. Investigators were called to the scene, and the initial assessment made that evening indicated a high probability of the fire occurring due to careless smoking.
Tuesday morning, 11 AM, a St. John's County patrol officer noticed a cloud of smoke rising skyward in a housing development adjacent to Race Track Road near the county line. Upon further investigation, the officer discovered a single story, single family home fully involved in the 14000 block of Silver Glen Drive East. Following the subsequent dispatch intitiated through the officer's 9-1-1 call, crews arrived on scene and immediately realized that any interior attack would be impossible as the intense heat and flames had already created a raging inferno. Assuming a defensive posture and protecting adjacent exposures, two houses no more than 15 feet away to the immediate left and right, the fire was eventually subdued after nearly 30 minutes of hot and sweaty work in the 95-plus degree heat. Although all efforts proved too little, too late for the home, with the structure classified as a total loss at over $250,000, the performance delivered in protecting all exposures was a remarkable success; the only noticeable damage to the other homes being nothing more than a few cracked windows.
Friday, August 27 and just before rush hour at 4 PM, units were dispatched to the report of an apartment fire in the 4500 block of Baymeadows: a complex known as the 'Madison' at Bay Pointe. As Engine 51 and Ladder 44 arrived, they promptly reported that smoke was billowing out of the front area of an apartment located on the ground floor of the building. The building itself, a two story structure, contained a total of 8 apartment units with each occupied. The crews were met at the scene by a maintenance worker who unlocked the door of the apartment unit containing the heavy flow of smoke, apartment unit #261. The crews quickly worked their way through the interior and encountered the area of origin, the kitchen, drenching every potential source in very little time. Smoke, however, had already ascended through ventilation components into both the second floor unit above as well as into the common attic space. Chasing this unfortunate development and performing corresponding ventilation operations would require additional relief crews, eventually resulting in nearly fifty emergency responders and affiliated apparatus gathering on the fireground. After rescuing a dog and a pet bird from adjacent apartments, the incident was called under control after nearly 45 minutes and the Red Cross notified to provide assistance to several families now displaced. Damage estimates were believed to be well in excess of $100,000, with investigators unable to make a specific determination as to the cause of the fire.
The following day, Saturday August 28, the department faced two separate incidents involving that most horrific tragedy known as drowning. The first, occurring in Jacksonville Beach around 8:30 AM, involved an adult female who had succumbed to the strong rip currents in the surf near First Avenue and North Sixth Street. The crew of Rescue 71 worked the critical victim and, upon arriving at Beaches Baptist, had achieved a huge success with the patient's condition improving significantly. Just a few hours later, shortly after the noon hour, crews from Station 13 were dispatched to the report of another drowning victim, a teenager, this time in a retention pond in the 2100 block of Kingswood Road. Although specific details proved somewhat elusive, it appeared that two teenage boys had set out into the pond aboard a floatation device designed for use in swimming pools, carrying a casting net with them. For whatever reason, one of the boys fell into the water and remained submerged until the crews arrived on scene. Without hesitating, Station 13's firefighters dove into the pond to locate the victim and, after doing so, brought the critical patient to the embankment. Continuously and skillfully working the young boy, the crew of Rescue 13 achieved a considerable success as the patient's life threatening condition had improved upon arriving at Baptist Hospital.
The month of August decided to leave one more memorable event behind before departing in favor of September, as units were summoned to I-10 westbound for an emergency involving a 'downed' aircraft. Much to the astonishment of the arriving emergency responders, the two souls aboard the twin turbo prop aircraft had already egressed from the plane, unharmed, as the dispatched apparatus pulled up to the scene. The subsequent reconstruction of events revealed an even more amazing tale as recollected by the two adult males. Experiencing mechanical difficulties shortly after taking off from Herlong Airfield, specifically the loss of an engine, the pilot realized that the descent was leading the aircraft straight onto the packed morning traffic rush on I-10. Flying below and dodging high tension wires, the aircraft managed to intitially touch down on the highway without striking a vehicle, but had to pull up and perform leap-frogging, evasive action in order to avoid hitting other cars. The pilot realized that several vehicles now directly in front of the plane would be unavoidably hit unless the plane was swiftly diverted into another direction. With that decision made, the pilot veered the aircraft onto the grassy shoulder parallel to the highway, rolling along and narrowly missing a head-on collision with trees until slamming into several pallets containing metal barrier components used for road construction. With the fuel spill minute and the two souls onboard unharmed, the incident became a showcase for the skill level and courage of the pilot along with an emergency landing requiring the investigative prowess of both the NTSB and the FAA.