With April showers bringing May flowers, what can May showers deliver? Hopefully a much needed relief from the dangerously dry conditions, as rain has finally decided to return for a visit to the First Coast area during the early part of this month. Although brush and wildfire activity has not been unusually different this year than in years past within Duval County, a true and measurable abatement of this pervasive threat can only be obtained through the assistance of Mother Nature.
In the meantime, incidents continue to showcase the extreme diversity and dynamic conditions affiliated with daily emergency response. Case in point: Monday morning, May 7th. A relatively unusual traffic accident occurred during the early morning rush hour when a tanker truck carrying 'cooking oil' overturned along I 295 northbound near Blanding Boulevard. Although an overturned tanker is certainly not unusual the cargo in question, however, did represent a unique and out of the ordinary experience. Thankfully no injuries were reported from the scene, with the HAZMAT Team immediately on top of things and containing the spill in their typically professional and expedient fashion. The resulting snarl of traffic was a different story altogether, as the incident created quite a mess consuming several hours before the resumption of normal traffic patterns could be achieved.
Several residential properties received quite a scare on Thursday, 10 May, as heavy smoke was spotted from a five acre wooded parcel adjacent to approximately 15 homes near Beekman Lake Road, located just off Old Middleburg Road. The incident, reported just after 1 PM, seemed quite ominous at first as the brush fire appeared capable of rapidly encroaching upon the properties, but the assembled firefighters soon cut off the fire head a good 100 yards from the endangered group of single-family dwellings. A few eyewitness accounts delivered a putative assertion of cars leaving the secluded wooded area just before the smoke was discovered, a report that was being vetted as part of the overall investigation into the cause of this fire.
Just before 11 AM on Monday, May 14, units were dispatched to a structure fire at 5022 Cinancy Court following a 9-1-1 call from neighbors claiming smoke could be seen rising from the garage of the single family, all brick and well over 3,000 square foot residence. The first arriving units confirmed that thick clouds of smoke and flames were indeed visible, seemingly originating from a bonus room location immediately near the roof of the garage. The crew from Ladder 30 - 'B' forced entry and quickly performed a primary search, discovering in the process that fire was not only consuming the interior of the garage but a ground floor laundry room and bathroom area as well. When fire suddenly emerged through the eaves along the back of the home coupled with smoke visible along the front entrance archway, Command quickly pulled all firefighters out in order to begin ladder pipe operations. With the fire seemingly subdued following the aforementioned initiative, crews returned once again into the house to aggressively combat the stubborn blaze. Unfortunately, this interior suppression objective would soon be rescinded with the threat of a roof collapse endangering the assembled firefighters and, once again, ladder pipe operations were restarted and the fire was eventually called under control...60 minutes after the arrival of the first units on scene. Although the good news of no reported injuries was a relief to all, especially in light of the many dangers encountered throughout the evolution, the loss of the home to the ravaging fire did dampen spirits considerably. With damage estimates in excess of $400,000, the State Fire Marshal's Office was summoned to determine both cause and point of origin.
The end of the month introduced Tropical Storm Beryl to the citizens of Jacksonville, an introduction that ultimately consumed the Memorial Day weekend beginning Sunday, 27 May, and ending in the late evening hours on the next day. As coverage and recapitulation of the storm is quite abundant via traditional on-line channels, this narrative will simply emphasize how fortunate the city was to have no reports of any significant injuries and damages were not out of the ordinary. The much needed rainfall represented a favorable by-product of the event and, one final note, the city's Emergency Operations Center was once again able to demonstrate a level of exceptional proficiency unparalleled anywhere in the country. Let's hope, however, that 'Beryl' will remain the only visitor to our shores during this hurricane season.