The month of December apparently wanted to begin in very much the same fashion as the previous month ended: with a prominent multi-alarm fire. More to the point and specifically, at approximately 10:45 AM on Thursday, December 4, units were summoned to a Second Alarm fire at a city owned, five story parking garage located at 33 West Duval. With heavy black smoke reaching into a beautiful blue morning sky, with the smoke emanating directly from the top floor of the garage, downtown was soon filled with innumerable onlookers as the JFRD crews arrived on scene and quickly evacuated the building, making their way to the seat of the fire without difficulty. With the fire extinguished in less than thirty minutes, the discovery was quickly made that a routine generator test had resulted in an overheating of the exhaust pipe, in turn leading to an ignition of nearby roofing material. No injuries were reported but damage estimates were considerable, with early figures in the neighborhood of $300,000.
A JEA sewage substation located in the 10000 block of Bradley Road was the scene of a major response from JFRD units on Tuesday, the 9th of this month. Just before 10 in the morning roofers who were flashing tar on the roof accidentally caught a fiberglass pipe on fire, with smoldering embers cascading down through the piping system. 5 roofers and 2 JEA employees were exposed to the acrid and noxious vapors and needed to be transported to area hospitals, all in stable condition. Meanwhile, firefighters set about the arduous task of locating the hotspots in the complex matrix of pipes, with the pungent smell of hydrogen sulfide engulfing the downwind area; the latter resulting in an evacuation mandate issued to businesses located in a small, nearby strip-mall. After a considerable length of time, approximately three hours in total, thermal imaging cameras revealed the most ardent areas within a 90 degree elbow jointed pipe and crews were able to flood the aforementioned and extinguish the threat.
The very next day, the 10th of December, an MCI of special magnitude caught the attention of the entire City when a daycare facility van was involved in a violent rollover accident in the afternoon hours just off the 5000 block of Hollycrest. With 9 total patients, all of them pediatric and ranging in ages from 1 year to 7 years, the immediate comforting news was unquestionably the fact that not a single patient sustained any critical or life-threatening injuries. Rapidly transported to area hospitals, all patients were expected to make a quick and complete recovery.
On Monday, 22 December, units were dispatched to a reported structure fire in the 7500 block of Warbler Road located in the northwest quadrant of our city. The two story, mixed wood frame and concrete block construction, had both heavy fire and thick, black smoke clearly visible as the first arriving crew from Engine 33 pulled up to the scene. The initial worrisome report of people possibly trapped inside of the home was thankfully mitigated by two young adults who met the firefighters and exclaimed that they had been the only individuals inside of the house. Carefully avoiding the downed power lines in the front yard, firefighters began the interior attack and primary search but soon encountered a considerable obstacle: a four foot in diameter hole in the stairwell landing that prevented the crews from taking the stairs to the second floor. Without hesitation, firefighters used physical strength and brute force to push through an interior side wall and soon had the much needed access to the second floor of the home. With additional crews utilizing ground ladders to second floor windows of the house, the fire-head was soon arrested in its tracks and the incident called under control. Although the State Fire Marshal was called to the scene for the investigative phase, preliminary interviews with the two young adults inside the home at the time of the fire quickly revealed an electrical problem as the culprit; a troublesome extension cord that would routinely spark and deliver faint wisps of smoke had 'finally' managed to ignite something combustible. The latter event resulting in a tragic outcome compounded in magnitude by occurring so close and near to the holidays.
In what is now slowly becoming another version of the infamous 'December to Remember' activity for the JFRD (with historians remembering years ago how this respective month delivered both the T2 Labs explosion and the Berkman Plaza II parking garage collapse), with several truly noteworthy incidents all crammed into a single 4 week period, December 2014 added yet two more significant events to bring a busy and eventful month to a close. Tuesday, the 23rd, and Fire Station 28 on our city's southside as the scene of an incident that would bring national attention to our department as firefighters from the aforementioned location were suddenly exposed to gun shots; shots aimed deliberately and directly at them. This occurred at the fueling station immediately behind the fire station, in the 9200 block of Hogan Road as firefighters from Ladder 28 were refueling the apparatus when gun fire erupted, with bullets striking the area around the vehicle as the crew dove for cover. One firefighter sustained minor injuries and, naturally, local law enforcement arrived at the scene to begin the painstaking process of determining who was behind this cowardly and heinous act.
On Friday, December 26th, a tragic event would mar the holiday season as units responded to a residential apartment fire at the Landon Imperial Apartments located at 1913 Art Museum Drive. As the first arriving crews appeared on scene shortly before 2 AM, firefighters could see smoke engulfing a second floor apartment with neighbors attempting to brave the acrid atmosphere to gain entry. Entering into the residence, firefighters soon began to pull the occupants out of the deadly environment until a total of 5 occupants, 3 of which were pediatric in nature, were all being triaged and subsequently transported to area hospitals: each listed in critical condition and one, a 6 year-old, ultimately perishing as a result of the horrific incident. The State Fire Marshal, called to the scene to perform the investigation, quickly determined that the fire was accidental - the cause a classic and all too frequent example of food having been left on the stove.