The month of February began with plenty of cold weather, numerous W3 house fires and yet another fire at the Church of the Epiphany on our city's westside, this time resulting in the sanctuary being fully involved and deemed a total loss in the aftermath of the blaze. The State Fire Marshal's office is actively investigating this and other fires that have occurred in that area of Jacksonville in recent months.
A not quite so ordinary emergency response was in store for the Department in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday, February 11, when a 9 car derailment from an 82 rail car chain was reported just before 5 AM directly underneath the Acosta Bridge and adjacent to the Florida Times Union building. Of the 9 cars derailed, only one represented an immediate threat as it had flipped onto its side and was leaking product. The car, carrying ethanol to the tune of 28,000 gallons, thankfully remained relatively intact with an extremely small leak originating from a damaged flange. With JFRD crews on scene within minutes, the leak was contained with merely 3 to 4 gallons of product actually leaking out, none of which making it into the nearby waterway. With railroad professionals arriving on scene, JFRD continued to deliver support throughout the day and into the evening as cars were re-tracked onto rails, with the overturned car requiring the removal of most of the product before it, too, could be returned to an upright position via the use of several cranes. Thankfully no injuries were reported througout this entire process.
A truly unique and remarkable 24 hour shift occurred on Thursday, the 27th of the month, when that day's 'B' - Shift would find itself involved with major emergencies spanning virtually every quadrant of the city. Starting things off at a somewhat 'leisurely' pace, a major natural gas line leak near Normandy and New World on the city's Westside required the response of several JFRD units including the HAZMAT units from Fire Station 7. The large trunk line, more specifically a 16" size with anywhere from 3,000 to over 10,000 psi, was discovered to be leaking following the observance of large bubbles along the roadside in the aftermath of a recent rain storm. Several units remained on scene during the lengthy repair work and were soon able to hear a dispatch for their colleagues on Jacksonville's Northside, more specifically a response to a structure fire in the 6500 block of Utsey Road. Arriving on scene, the first units reported heavy smoke and fire emanating from the top floor of the two story, single family residence. As firefighters performed their interior attack and initiated a primary search for any victims, two of the Department's finest were suddenly confronted by what was described as a flashover in one of the second story bedrooms. Trapped and without any means of egress other than the bedroom window, one firefighter elected to hurl himself out of the aforementioned window while another managed to make his way past the flames and down the stairs, ultimately exiting through the front door. Both were transported to an area hospital in stable condition. The fire was called under control after nearly 30 minutes with no other reports of injuries. The State Fire Marshal was called to the scene for the investigation into both cause and point of origin. Almost immediately upon conclusion of that incident, units were dispatched to the report of yet another structure fire, this time a two story duplex located in the 1700 block of West 10th Street. Here, too, first arriving units reported fire and smoke visible with the additional urgency of several adults seen in the windows of the second floor pleading for help. Firefighters quickly utilized ladders to assist the residents while also removing others from the ground floor of the structure, a total of 5 adults. 4 of these would require transport to the hospital, with two listed as critical and tragically one perishing a few hours later. The 'B' - Shift was not quite done yet, as a Second Alarm apartment fire at the "La Esparanza" Apartments in the 3800 block of University Boulevard would again demand the entire skillset of firefighting abilities from the crews arriving on scene. Here again, heavy smoke and flames could be seen from the ground floor apartment of one the 32 two story, 8 apartment unit buildings spread among the entire complex. With flames threatening to consume the above apartment unit, firefighters had to act quickly and the crew from Telesquad 21 did in fact locate one female victim in the main fire apartment, a victim on the floor of her bedroom and nearly completely surrounded by a wall of flame. Listed in critical condition, the woman was transported to UF Health while ladder pipes and nearly 60 firefighters at the scene brought the blaze under control after nearly 60 minutes of activity. Once again, the State Fire Marshal was called to the scene for the investigation.