December means Christmas and from the perspective of any Fire/Rescue Department: remember lifesaving holiday home fire safety tips! There are so many, however, that listing them here would undeniably result in an extremely lengthy and potentially pedantic narrative. This is why the city's Fire Prevention Bureau has many informative pamphlets and brochures, courtesy of the NFPA, that any citizen can request and receive a copy of by simply calling the aforementioned agency at (904) 630-0445. In any event, please remember to have a working smoke detector in your home and prepare yourself and your family for any contingency by having a thorough and well-rehearsed escape plan.
Early Friday morning, December 9 and just before 6:30 AM, units responded to a 9-1-1 call that was not exactly out of the ordinary and, actually, quite routine and routinely anticipated: a response to the Maxwell House business on East Bay Street. Over the years, JFRD units have become accustomed to the possibility of responding to an incident at this location: after all, the plant and the general processes found here do involve heat and the corresponding roasting (heavenly aromatics!) of coffee beans that can lead to an occasional summons for emergency services - ergo the familiarity of receiving a 9-1-1 call from this establishment. On this day, the air compressor room and fuel tanks affiliated with the aforementioned suddenly became involved in a volatile scenario, with heavy smoke and flames visible from ventialtion openings in a room some four stories above ground. With the heat far too intense for the well-trained, in-house fire brigade to handle, JFRD was called upon to bring the incident under control. Crews from both Engine 1 and Engine 4 soon arrived on scene, rapidly ascended the exterior stairs to the involved area and engaged the fire with portable foam extinguishers. The aforementioned action soon resulted in the fire called under control, with barely 20 minutes having elapsed and no injuries to either firefighters or plant personnel reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Although every residential fire represents a significantly tragic event, the magnitude of that misfortune is undeniably elevated during the Christmas holiday season. The Department and portions of our community were once again reminded of this truism, when tragedy arrived in the form of manufactured home fire around noon on December 21st. Responding to a 9-1-1 call originating from the manufactured home complex known as 'Continental Village,' located at 5400 Collins Road, Engine 25 'A' was first on scene and reported heavy smoke and flames visible from Lot #159. Even though the natural level of anxiety and adrenaline of the firefighters was somewhat lessened by the revelation that all occupants were out of the home, with the fire called under control in a less than challenging 15 minutes, emergency responders were nonetheless faced with a somber aftermath. Not only were countless Christmas presents and decorations lost to the voracious flames, along with two dead pet hamsters, but three individuals required transport to area hospitals for treatment of minor injuries. Of the three, two were occupants of the residence: one infant along with the child's mother. The other injured victim, an adult male transported to Orange Park MC with minor injuries, was an eyewitness who rushed to the scene to render assistance before firefighters arrived on scene. With the cause still under investigation, the emphasis shifted more into the realm of how best to support this family of 5 in the wake of such a horrific incident, especially given the approaching holiday. Enter Firefighter's Union Local 122, arriving soon after and delivering gift cards to the family to somewhat ease the pain of losing so much, so close to that special day of generosity.