With the arrival of November comes the simultaneous departure of Daylight Savings Time and, as usual, the reminder for everyone to check the operational readiness of every smoke detector in the house. Replace the batteries of the unit, remove dust and dirt and above all else: procure one! Simply call 630-CITY (2489) and qualify for a free smoke detector today.
Early Thursday morning, 3 November and just after 6:30 AM, units were dispatched to a residential fire in the 3200 block of Thomas Street. As the first responders pulled up on scene, they were immediately witness to a gathering of people in front of a single story, concrete block home with heavy smoke spilling out from both the front door and front window. The assembled group was also using a garden hose in an ineffective attempt to tame the advancing flames, all the while frantically shouting 'there are still people inside!' The emergency responders from Engine 5 quickly entered into the home, well before the first hoseline had even been pulled, and soon emerged with two elderly males, each having been found in two separate bedrooms located in the back of the home. Although the two men, brothers and both aged 80-plus, were conscious and alert, they were nevertheless transported to Shands for precautionary reasons. The fire was called under control in less than 10 minutes, with the investigation revealing interesting aspects surrounding the ordeal. Apparently neighbors noticed the smoke pouring from the home early that morning and were soon banging on the door shouting 'fire!' in an attempt to rouse the slumbering occupants. A woman, in her late sixties and eventually identified as the daughter of one of the two rescued males inside of the home, heard the commotion and ran out of the door to safety. As to be expected, a smoke detector was featured prominently in this story: more specifically, the fact that a detector was in the home but completely ineffective as it contained no battery. The investigation soon discovered the reason for the fire - an extension cord buried beneath a 3 foot high pile of combustible items that prevented the generated heat from dissipating.
It had been quite some time since the Department last issued a Second Alarm, but that was all to change shortly after 1 AM Sunday morning, 6 November. The report of a structure fire at a business and industrial complex located in the 5900 block of Richard Road led to an alarming assessment by the first due engine company, Engine 21, reporting that flames were through the roof of a large aluminum and metal structure at the aforementioned address. Things quickly escalated, as yet another industrial building adjacent to the already impacted structure was soon reported to be burning as well. The entire complex represented a diverse fireload contained within approximately 8000 square feet of non-connected buildings, all in relative close proximity to one another. This challenging propinquity coupled with difficulty of access, prolonged burning and corresponding lack of sound structural sturdiness and other complexities, quickly led to the decision by on scene Command to issue a Second Alarm for additional resources. In all, 36 units were involved in the response that would eventually constitute a full hour of suppression activity before the situation could be called under control. Offensive containment measures began with firefighters performing forcible entry into the first structure while another group of responders acted in likeminded fashion with the second building, with yet additional crews assessing the other businesses located within the hot zone. The primary searches performed quickly established no casualties or injuries on scene while simultaneously affiriming the confinement of active fire to 'only' two buildings. Meanwhile, other fire crews turned their attention to a pair of large propane tanks dangerously exposed to the nearby flames. Once cooled, firefighters immediately removed the tanks from the imminent threat presented by the radiant heat. Unfortunately, firefighters were soon forced to rescind all interior operations due to the obvious instability of the roofs resulting from the metal fatigue prevalent with the involved buildings. Now it was time to welcome the 'surround and drown' approach, as aerial ladderpipes distributed thousands of gallons of water to finally bring the blaze under control. Ground crews soon returned to action, extinguishing hot spots and eventually instituting a fire watch through mid-day to guard against any rekindling. With damage estimates exceeding $200,000, the State Fire Marshal's Office was called in to join the investigation as to both cause and point of origin.
Although not a news-making event, a response to a routine structure fire on Wednesday, 9 November just after the noon lunch hour did contain an unusual element. As firefighters arrived on scene at 3562 Lenox Avenue, the responders could see thick, black smoke flowing from a second story garage apartment. Upon closer inspection, firefighters could see that both the below concrete block former garage component as well as the above small apartment were boarded up and, therefore, vacant. The interesting and unique aspect of this response was soon revealed as firefighters ascended the wooden steps up to the platform of the garage apartment: a swarm of bees buzzing about the entire area. Extinguishing the fire proved unchallenging, but making sure that the angry insects didn't sting anyone was a different matter altogether, even with the maximum protection afforded by the bunker gear. As far as speculation for the cause of this fire is concerned, the likely scenario involved the assumption that a vagrant attempted to enter into the boarded up apartment when the bees began to attack. Underestimating the actual number of these 'critters' housed under the roof near the front entrance, the trespasser probably attempted to start a 'small' fire to smoke the creatures out - a 'successful' method often seen in Hollywood programming. Once the smoke managed to completely aggravate the entire colony, the full brunt of the subsequent attack proved too much to handle and the pyromaniac fled the scene, leaving behind a smokey fire and an angry hive of swarming bees.
Early Thursday morning 17 November and just after 2 AM, units responded to the report of an apartment fire in the 1100 block of Seagate at a complex known as Ocean Oaks. As Engine 55 approached the scene along Penman Road, the crew could see flames shooting out from the back of a ground floor apartment. Pulling into the compound, the crew could now see the 'big picture' in the form of flames and smoke also streaming through the front windows of the apartment. Greatly assisted by the concrete block construction of the building, the fire was brought under control in less than 15 minutes with the other three apartments sustaining smoke and water damage to varying degrees of intensity. The prominent aspect of the event, however, occurred even before the arrival of the first engine company. A neighbor heard 'strange noises' and a 'crashing sound' and, upon investigation, discovered the apartment immediately beneath them enveloped in smoke with flames beginning to creep up the stairs of the common breezeway. Without hesitation, the 30 year old male headed toward the impacted apartment and kicked the front door in promptly discovering the sole resident, a male, on the floor just on the other side of the door. Naturally the 'hero' helped the man to his feet and out of the apartment. The victim was transported to Shands by Rescue 55 with non-lifethreatening injuries. In the immediate aftermath the Red Cross was needed on scene to provide assistance for two displaced adults, and the investigation soon learned that careless smoking was possibly the reason for the emergency response.
On Saturday, November 26, the Department's HAZMAT Team from Station 21 once again stepped up front and center following a complaint from business owners and customers concerning a strong odor and nauseous fumes permeating an entire strip mall located at 3267 Hodges Boulevard. As emergency responders began to arrive on scene for this 4 PM response, it became quickly clear that the reports of an overpowering odor coupled with debilitating fumes were absolutely accurate. It also became quite clear as to the source of this agonizingly pungent atmosphere: one store undergoing renovations where the contractor was using a floor sealant. With the aforementioned activity and product, proper ventilation coupled with an acceptable drying time before applying any additional coat is simply the minimum standard that must be present in order to avoid a potentially catastrophic development. The tolulene and benzene filled sealant product soon began seeping into the infrastructure, as walls and ceilings became saturated by these vapors that are heavier than air. With a lack of proper ventilation and an outside shift of weather conditions, the effects were soon felt by employees and customers alike in each of the 5 businesses in operation at that time. Although no injuries were reported and therefore no transports performed, as the danger associated with the product is generally derived from longterm exposure, firefighters did disrupt business operations as each of the stores had to be evacuated. Eventually Command was terminated with the arrival of the contractor hired Environmental Hygienist coupled with safe levels being registered by the handheld on scene monitors.