A ravaging fire that essentially destroyed an entire vacant business complex early into the month of February served as a reminder that, even with brush fires claiming many of the headlines, structure fires will always remain "season-free" and pop up at any time of the year. Such was the case at approximately 1 AM Saturday, 2 February, as units battled a sizeable fire in the 3400 block of Atlantic Boulevard, a struggle that would last for several hours and necessitate the closing of that main thoroughfare. The 5500 square foot building, at one time home to several businesses including a dental office, was fully involved as units arrived on scene. Built in 1968, the old structure contained a heavy fire load fueled primarily by copious amounts of wood, leaving Command with little choice but to assume a defensive posture with two 5 inch lines and an equal number of ladder pipes. 'Surround and drown' eventually resulted in the fire being called under control around 3 AM, with the building subsequently categorized as a total loss. The State Fire Marshal's Office was called in to investigate.
Monday, February 11 at 8 AM, units of the JFRD would find themselves at the scene of a potentially devastating fire in the 4100 block of East Southpoint Drive, the location of a nursing home. The latter component is naturally an element that raises the overall urgency of the incident to an even higher level; thankfully, though, the fire was essentially contained within the area of origin, the laundry room. The alert and focused actions delivered by the staff of the nursing home, quickly attacking the fire with portable extinguishers and securing the door to prevent both smoke and fire from rapidly spreading throughout the facility, greatly contributed to the overall successful outcome of the emergency response. Only one transport (a patient with minor injuries) was noted from the incident.
A far more involved and prominent incident occurred the very next day, February 12, when units were dispatched to a structure fire just around 4 PM at the Town Center, more specifically on Big Island Drive. That is the location of a new luxury apartment complex called "5000 Town", a $20 million construction project that upon completion will feature 130 units including an impressive rooftop amenity. This rooftop feature quickly became the focus of the department's Second Alarm assignment, as several explosions combined with heavy smoke and swirling flames that could be seen for miles away resulted in an inordinate number of 9-1-1 calls. As firefighters arrived at the scene they were promptly greeted by the good news that all construction workers had managed to flee the scene and were now safe and secure from the rapidly growing fire. Following the decree issued by Command for a Second Alarm assignment, the contingent of approximately 60-odd firefighters on scene quickly went to work with two ladder pipes primarily responsible for the rapid extinguishment of the fire in less than 15 minutes. As hot spot issues were being addressed, it soon became relatively clear as to what had led to the conflagration in the first place...Apparently work on the rooftop that day involved the process of foam insulation being placed underneath the flooring on the roof, with the affiliated curing procedure generating enough heat to leave a smoldering environment behind. Considering the presence of several 20 pound LP gas cylinders in the vicinity of the activity, it came as a surprise to virtually nobody that explosions were both heard and observed in the immediate wake of the fire - a fire that was primarily fueled by the rooftop amenity superstructure. Both the State Fire Marshal's Office and representatives from OSHA descended unto the scene in the aftermath, with the actual cause still under investigation but damage estimates readily available to the tune of $80,000. The complete absence of injuries from the incident further cemented the overall evaluation of the entire operation as, categorically declared, a resounding success.
It appears the month of February is intent on delivering a variety of incidents in order to emphasize the diverse nature of scenarions within emergency response. Early Friday morning, February 15, firefighters responded to the report of a residential structure fire on Birdier Street and, upon arrival, immediately confirmed that a two story house was fully involved, flames consuming the entire front of the residence from top to bottom. Following an arduous suppression campaign lasting over two hours, the fire was called under control with firefighters making the tragic discovery of the body of an elderly woman, the occupant, found downstairs near the staircase. Although certainly an assumption, it did appear as if the over eighty-year old inhabitant had made an attempt to flee the horrifying environment before being overcome. Both cause and exact point of origin are under investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Office.
Keeping with February's theme of call diversity in fire/rescue emergency response, Tuesday 19 February and just around 11 AM represented the specifics of a call-out to a wooded, vacant lot along St. John's Bluff for a brush fire. The parcel, wedged between Beach Boulevard to the south, Alden Road to the north and Cortez to the west, was subjected to flames consuming nearly 5 acres that were dangerously close to impacting a few residential structures along the fringes of area. With winds gusting to 30 mph and whipping the fire into a frenzy, firefighters had their hands full as they fought to contain the flames from rapidly spreading into adjacent areas. Thick clouds of smoke began to obscure visibility along St. John's Bluff necessitating the closing of both north- and southbound lanes at one point, but that same stretch of road served as a fortuitous fifty yard fire break and the focused efforts of the responders eventually resulted in a ninety percent containment after nearly five hours of firefighting. No structures were damaged and no injuries reported throughout the entire ordeal.
February continues to deliver newsworthy events involving emergency response, the latest an apartment fire on Friday, 22 February. As firefighters arrived at the University Townhouses located in the 3200 block of Justina Terrace just before 11 AM, they discovered an end unit in the two story building with heavy flames and smoke pouring out of the front window on the second floor. The suppression activity proved to be rather routine, but in the aftermath of the incident it was learned that a young child had been alone in an upper bedroom and managed to set fire to a mattress. Although the father was at home and attempted to put the fire out with a bucket of water, his efforts were of no use and the family had to flee their apartment and await the arrival of the firefighters. With the apartment heavily damaged, Red Cross was called to provide relief for two adults and six children (including two sets of twins), with the ages of the latter ranging from one to ten years in age. No injuries were reported from the scene.