Two suspicious fires at the onset of September have drawn the attention of our State Fire Marshal's Office. Both fires, one at 8th and Liberty and the other 8th and Pearl, struck homes within the Springfield district and, more specifically, homes that were undergoing renovations. Although both fires were rapidly extinguished by our experienced downtown companies, with no injuries reported to either civilians or firefighters, significant damage was noted to have befallen each of the structures involved. Estimates of the damages were believed to exceed $100,000 for the two homes combined.
On Monday, Sept. 11, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF Local 122), will once again join together with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and Fraternal Order of Police in a ceremony designed to honor the sacrifice of the hundreds of firefighters and police officers who lost their lives responding to the attacks on the World Trade Center. Entitled 'Brother to Brother,' the event will represent a special tribute from one set of Emergency Responders to another. Shortly before 10 a.m. on the morning of the Sept. 11, following the congregation of 343 firefighters and more than 60 police officers at the Jacksonville Landing, a procession of our city's public safety professionals will be led by an assembly of bagpipers along Laura Street toward Hemming Plaza. Upon arrival, for the approximately half-hour time frame during which the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed exactly five years ago, each member of the procession will announce the name of a fallen 'brother' to honor that ultimate sacrifice made by so many. A twenty-one gun salute and rendition of taps will conclude the remembrance.
Tuesday evening, Sept. 12, shortly after 7:30 p.m., units were summoned to 12526 Mandarin Road to a report of a structure fire. Engine 42 immediately reported that the multi-story single family residence was fully involved, with the interior of the attached three car garage completely engulfed in flame with visible bursts erupting through the metal roof as well. This being Mandarin Road, the lack of hydrant service posed a significant obstacle for the responding units to overcome and necessitated the dispatch of three of the Department's 'Attack Tankers' to the scene. Despite carrying 2,500 gallons of water, each tanker was topped off at least three times so that by the end of the over two hour evolution nearly 50,000 gallons of water had been dispersed in extinguishing the fire. Deemed a total loss, the damage estimates were in excess of $1 million with the possible point of origin and corresponding culprit an old van parked in the garage. This incident enflamed discussion once again about the possible need for a water main and subsequent hydrant service to that part of town notoriously lacking in the aforementioned infrastructure. The residents along Mandarin Road, however, recognize that in exchange for such service the sacrifice of the majestic oak trees lining the road would be the heavy price to pay.
A truly astounding third alarm fire presented itself to the department on Monday, September 25th. Just around 5 P.M. units were dispatched to the Pecan Park Flea Market to the report of a significant fire, which is exactly what first arriving units confirmed to be the case. 3 separate buildings containing several bay doors with vendor products inside, ranging from a pet shop to tires and clothing, were all reported to be fully involved. Thick, black clouds of smoke could be seen as far away as downtown reaching into the evening sky, with flames curling and twisting around the eaves and licking onto the roof. A second alarm was sounded merely 10 minutes after the first assignment arrived, with the third alarm given 30 minutes later as the fire threatened to consume the northern section of the long stretch of concrete-block construction. With the mutual-aide assistance of Nassau County, over 100 firefighters at the scene eventually made a stand at the nearest firewall, located on the northside of the building, and were able to utilize ladder pipes to contain the blaze while letting the heavily charred areas burn itself out. Despite the manpower present and the inferno that raged, no injuries were reported although damage estimates were several hundred-thousand dollars worth. Investigators determined that the area of origin appeared to be the southeastern portion of the complex where a tire shop was located at, however the cause still remains undetermined as much of the evidence simply 'vaporized' during the intense heat of the fire. This in turn made it impossible to rule out many possibilities, such as electrical, for being the true culprit of this emergency.
The following day, Tuesday September 26th, saw JFRD units respond to yet another multiple alarm structure fire, this time a single family residence located at 11435 Woodsong Loop North. The first arriving unit, Engine 29, reported heavy smoke showing and that report was soon followed by the dreaded 'flames showing through the roof' as the fire began to rapidly spread throughout the attic space. A second alarm was sounded, primarily to not only combat the fire but to have sufficient manpower on scene for the combat activity required to protect the multitude of exposures that were in the direct vicinity of the house fire. Some homes were in such close proximity that less than ten feet were available as a buffer. The intense fire consumed the home, unfortunately representing a total loss with damages in excess of $400,000, but fortunately no injuries were reported to either civilians or firefighters. During the investigation the homeowner revealed that he had been inside the house, along with his dog, when the smoke detector alarm sounded. It was also at that time that he noticed the scent and sight of smoke, tracing it toward his three car garage. Upon opening the door to the garage he saw that underneath the hood of his Chevrolet truck smoke was billowing up, with the corresponding heat already buckling the hood itself. This cause was later substantiated by the investigators at the scene.
As September slowly draws to a close, the Department will once again witness the official arrival of new recruits into the ranks of the nation's finest fire/rescue service. Specifically, graduation ceremonies for these 'new' emergency responders will be held Thursday evening, September 28th, beginning at 7 P.M. at the Fire/Rescue Training Academy.