Unfortunately for the Fire/Rescue Department, the unofficial beginning of summer around the Memorial Day holiday and first few days of this month proved to be a sad occasion. Recruit Firefighter 'Klif' Kramer, son of Captain Murray Kramer and his lovely wife Linda, passed away following a tragic incident of heat-stroke while exercising with his fellow recruit class at the Fire/Rescue Training Academy. The subsequent Memorial Service was a poignant reminder of just how much 'Klif' was looking forward to becoming a firefighter and following into his father's footsteps. The thoughts and prayers of not only the Department but of the entire Jacksonville community are with the grieving parents as they cope with their incredible loss.
Firefighters at Station 21, diagnosed with elevated levels of a heavy metal during routine blood testing as part of their annual physicals, have now had their respective diagnosis clarified as being 'organic' arsenic. According to the Department of Health, the lead agency in a series of exhaustive and thorough tests involving both firefighters and the station, the results are indicative of a diet consisting of foods capable of producing such extensive levels; in particular shellfish and other seafood related products. Despite this clean bill of health for both firefighters and the station as it relates to arsenic, the crew of Station 21 will remain in a trailer just on-site while a new station is built. Excessive mold found within the station coupled with a pre-existing and pre-funded mandate to build a new station proved to be the reasoning for keeping the crew in their temporary quarters.
In combat related news, the first few weeks of June have been witness to a bevy of manufactured home fires (7000 block of Bob-O-Link, 300 block of Lee, to name but a few) but thankfully so far nothing too noteworthy or out of the ordinary, as would be the tragic and unfortunate case with a loss of life.
Early Monday morning, June 20th, the Department did experience the first 'major' combat scenario of the month with a dispatch to the 4800 block of Victor Street in response to a fire at the 'Snowbird Environmental Systems Corporation.' Shortly before 7 AM, an employee of the aforementioned business arrived at work and switched on a breaker to power up the building. Soon after, the scent of smoke led the employee to the front of the building where he discovered a table engulfed in flames. Upon arrival at the scene, Engine 21's crew witnessed flames beginning to pour out through the roof, prompting a rapid attempt into entering the front office area. No sooner had the crew made a few steps into the building when suddenly the roof began to collapse forcing a hasty retreat. Despite these circumstances, the fire was eventually brought under control but not before an estimated $ 1 million in damages had been wrought unto the company's facility, which by the way manufactures and assembles air conditioning units and components for the military. The partial roof collpase was immediately attributed not only to the intense heat at the scene, but also to the inch-and-a-half trusses found at this site. Over 40 firefighters fought the blaze for nearly 45 minutes before extinguishment and a formal investigation is still underway in determining the exact cause of the fire as well as true point of origin.
The month of June in 2005 is now winding down in a rather 'wet' fashion, certainly more of an understatement as areas notorious for flooding are seeing incredible amounts of standing water resulting from torrential downpours. For example, one area in Mandarin experienced on Tuesday, June 28th, consistent rainfall for a three hour period in the afternoon hours that left behind between three and six inches of water. The storms are bringing along more than just water, however, as a lightning strike caused a house fire on June 27th on Feathers Court near Anniston Road and resulted in approximately $50,000 in structural damage. Wet roads and inclimate driving conditions have added yet another dramatic element to the ever-present threat of motor vehicle accidents on our streets and highways. Jack-knifed semis on I-95 North and rear-ended semis at the I- 95 and 295 merger have been just two of the culprits for long traffic lines and delays drivers have had to endure since the beginning of these rain-soaked days.
Within the department, congratulations are in order for the most recent list of newly promoted firefighters and, subsequently, congratulations should be extended to those who are retiring following many years of dedicated service to the community. May all of you experience success and happiness in your many endeavors.