Each and every year, June marks the beginning of yet another 'Hurricane Season' and, as in years past, the Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department urges each and every citizen to evaluate their respective hurricane plans and be prepared for what experts are predicting to be a very active season in 2011.
With the aforementioned serving as a reminder that summer is truly upon us, the month of June did not wait long before offering a 'hot' environment in more ways than one for the men and women in the field. Shortly after 3 PM on a miserably steamy Friday afternoon, 3 June, units responded to an apartment fire at 1137 Woodruff Avenue at a complex appropriately called the 'Woodruff Apartments.' As Engine 10-'A' began to approach the scene, firefighters could see in the distance a column of smoke rising into the sky; this added yet another element of concern as the dispatch had already included the added information that a handicapped individual was possibly trapped inside one of the apartment units. As the apparatus pulled into the complex, responders could see a courtyard in the 'U' shaped, two story building completely engulfed in thick, dark clouds of smoke, with flames in the northern corner climbing noticeably from the ground floor up toward the roof. Engine 10 immediately initiated an aggressive attack and charged into the fiery area and promptly began to gain the upper hand in suppressing the flames from advancing any further along the building. Command, once on scene, issued a Second Alarm as it appeared that human resources would be needed to provide relief for the crews working in extreme conditions fueled by the heat from both the environment as well as the incident. With the fire threat abated, additional crews on scene began to scour the apartments in performance of a primary search, thankfully discovering that every resident was safe and accounted for. The investigation was soon focused on the possibility of the cause of the fire being suspicious, as several eye-witness accounts indicated that potentially criminal activity may have been observed just prior to the blaze being reported. This revelation soon resulted in a call for both the State Fire Marshal's Office as well as the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to respond to the scene.
Early Wednesday morning, June 8 and just before 4 AM, units were disptached to the report of a fire in an industrial complex known as CMC Recycling, located at 2051 North Lane. Firefighters arriving on scene were somewhat awestruck by the sight of a 30 foot high, nearly 100 feet wide in diameter (or radial width) mound of scrap metal that had flames bursting skyward to the tune of over 30 feet. Command ordered two ladder pipes and one deck gun to begin blasting away at the pile, with both flames and the heaviest of smoke eventually receding and leaving behind a steaming mound of metal that would now require the use of the company's heavy machinery in order to break apart and separate the refuse, thus enabling firefighters to identify and extinguish hot spots. No injuries were reported from the incident, a true blessing considering the impressive magnitude of the mitigation required.
A response of a completely different kind, albeit with a higher level of notoriety than most emergencies deliver, took place on successive days - specifically June 27 and June 28 - as units responded to virtually identical 'suspicious substances' dispatches at two separate locations merely less than a mile apart. Events began at Senator Nelson's office, located at 1300 Riverplace, when an envelope containing an unknown substance was discovered by the office staff just before 3 PM that Monday. Adhering to all established protocols, the subsequent mitigation resulted in no injuries and the release of information that the material in question was cornstarch. The very next day, this time at Senator Rubio's office located just down the road at the Dupont Center on Prudential Drive, another discovery of an 'unknown substance' resulted in the repetition of the same procedures enacted the previous day. Here, too, the verdict was 'cornstarch' and no injuries reported to anyone on scene. Naturally, the FBI is investigating the issues affiliated with both emergencies.