The Fourth of July weekend proved relatively uneventful, from a Public Safety response perspective, partially due to the continued inclement weather that saw many planned holiday activities waterlogged and subsequently canceled or delayed. Flooding was once again a major problem in parts of Mandarin and on the Westside, with Assessment Teams from our Emergency Preparedness Division on-hand to provide assistance and gather information to be forwarded to both the State EOC and FEMA. Over 50 homes were indentified as having sustained serious damage, with that number expected to rise, as a result of extensive street flooding and other rain related cause and effect mechanisms.
Grabbing local headlines on July 6th was a dramatic construction accident involving a toppled crane in Jacksonville Beach that sent three workers to the hospital. Although all three were relatively unharmed and released later from the hospital, the astounding video footage revealed just how fortunate everyone was in the immediate vicinity of the incident to have escaped without any serious injury. The cause is under investigation by OSHA.
Meanwhile, Hurricanes Cindy and Dennis have arrived to remind each and every one of us that it is indeed hurricane season! This is by far the earliest timeframe that anyone can remember seeing two named storms arriving near our doorstep. Hopefully not a harbinger of increased activity to come.
The weekend of July 9th and 10th brought Hurricane Dennis ashore near the Florida Panhandle, but thankfully initial reports seem to indicate that damage throughout the region is not as extensive as was once feared, certainly not comparable with last year's devastation created by Hurricane Ivan, a system that took an eeriely similar path to Hurricane Dennis. Nonetheless, the JFRD has deployed a team of nearly 50 firefighters to the region to stage just outside of Tallahassee. Specifically, a Type 3 USAR team comprised of 22 individuals with corresponding equipment along with an Engine Strike Team consisting of 5 engines and staffed with 4 firefighters per unit deployed on Sunday. Additionally, along with a fuel truck and operator, an overall team leader and other support equipment and staff were sent to provide whatever assistance may be required in that effected area. With the threat of Dennis now abated, our attention can turn to 'Emily,' a new system threatening to develop and currently near the Dutch Antilles. Seems as if storm systems are immediately receiving their respective names these days before actually earning them! The weather prognosticator's fears of a busy hurricane season in 2005 is apparently warranted and already becoming a reality.
Tuesday afternoon, the 12th of July, saw the return of our department's USAR contingent from the Florida Panhandle. Apparently the outstanding evacuation performance by the citizens of that area resulted in a lack of 'activity' for the crew, thereby hastening an early return to Jacksonville. The Engine Strike Force, however, still remains in the Holley region assisting the volunteer firefighters in the performance of their respective duties post cleanup. An anticipated return of Thursday, July 14th, is currently projected for the entire team.
Earlier in this monthly report it was noted that 'dramatic' footage of a toppled crane from an incident in Jacksonville Beach served notice as to just how dangerous that situation truly was. 'Dramatic' footage from a house fire on July 14th also showed the entire city just how frightening a house fire can be when truly 'fully' involved. Just before 7:30 PM, another of the many thunderstorms that have been ravaging the First Coast since the beginning of the month came barreling through, bringing with it over 2,000 lightning flashes in a span of less than three hours. A single bolt was all that it took to strike a two-story home in Queen's Harbor, just off Atlantic Boulevard, and eventually send flames within minutes after the impact over 40 feet through the air. With the fire rooted deeply in the attic, it took the equivalent of a second alarm assignment approximately 30 minutes to bring the fire under control, but not without the blaze first creating damages in excess of $500,000. Our Department's Video Services, specifically Lieutenant Mike Peery, captured incredible footage of the battle that was shown on all local television outlets. While certainly nothing new, as the Video Services Section has been supplying local media outlets with footage for more than 17 years, this proved to be an effective demonstration to the entire community as to the power of a single lightning strike and subsequent blaze that can occur. Although, as mentioned previously, the house did sustain significant damage, the good news was that adjacent exposures were totally unscathed. No small task, as the other homes are merely 6 to 7 feet apart from one another.
Thursday, July 21st, marked another special occasion as the graduation ceremony for our Department's most recent new recruit class, Class 3-05, placed 26 new firefighters into the field. With current budget issues creating a momentary hold on additional hirings, these rookie public safety professionals represent, for the time being, the last class to graduate from the Academy grounds within the immediate future. We wish them well and much success in all of their respective endeavors. Speaking of the Academy... the following day after the graduation ceremony, Friday July 22nd, the Academy (in conjunction with the Inter-industry Council of Automotive Repair and FCCJ) served as co-hosts to an extremely advanced presentation involving the latest in extrication techniques and technology. Presented by Todd Hoffman of 'Scene of the Accident Incorporated,' the day long presentation included everything from safety issues with hybrid vehicles to specialized rescue/extrication techniques involving deployed airbags. A special 'thank-you' to all of the parties who contributed to the overall success of the program.