The month of July always means that the great American holiday, Independence Day, has finally arrived. With that arrival, and the corresponding festivities, comes this friendly reminder from the Fire Prevention Division of your Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department: leave fireworks to the professionals! The rule of thumb is 'if it leaves the ground or explodes, it's illegal.' Be smart, play it safe and enjoy a happy, healthy and joyous July 4th celebration!
The dangers of fireworks came quite prominently to light during an incident response on Tuesday, July 17. Units were called to a report of an apartment fire at 2901 Beechwood, specifically Building 201. Ladder 28 reported heavy smoke and flame showing from the balcony located at the rear of the apartment unit on the 2nd floor of the two story building. As the crew began to ascend the stairs a loud hissing sound could be heard, shortly followed by a powerful explosion that shook the staircase. With no injuries following the blast, the crew of Ladder 28 continued with their initial attack and, joined by other units, soon had the fire under control in less than 5 minutes. During the overhaul and investigative process it was learned that the explosion, dramatically captured on a cell phone camera by a maintenance worker on scene at the time, was caused by a gas grill propane tank located on the balcony, a location that had been the scene of most of the fire. Another revelation was an eyewitness account indicating that children had been playing with bottle rockets in the direct vicinity of the burned apartment. In particular, one eyewitness actually observed a child aiming a bottle rocket directly at the balcony where the heaviest fire load was later reported to have been. The investigation soon centered on identifying the juveniles responsible for this criminal mischief that resulted in over $30,000 in structural damages, along with 4 families requiring assistance following their displacement from their homes due to smoke, water or fire damage.
The month of July has developed into a relatively busy response period for units throughout our Department. In the middle of the afternoon on July 19, units were dispatched to the report of smoke and flame showing from a Radio Shack located in the 5800 block of Norwood. Despite encountering heavy smoke and downed power lines at the scene, the responding firefighters were able to call the incident 'under control' in less than 15 minutes, with the majority of the on scene time spent ventilating the structure in order to remove the vast amount of smoke obstructing firefighting activities. It was soon discovered that a bird had plunged into a nearby transformer, knocking down lines and sending an arc to the control panel of the establishment, ultimately leading to the fire scenario. A far more tragic outcome of a response to a reported structure fire occurred the very next day, July 20 at approximately 1:30 PM. Regency and Southside area units were summoned to an apartment fire at the 'Commons,' located at 1721 Anniston Road. Although merely light smoke was visible upon arrival, the crew from Ladder 30 needed to force entry into the ground floor apartment and was immediately confronted by thick, heavy smoke curling out from the kitchen area. With the kitchen fire quickly under control, the simultaneous primary search revealed a 52 year old woman, deceased, in the bathroom in her tub filled with water. The investigation into the cause of death is still ongoing, with the Medical Examiner's report expected to bring to light the particular circumstances. Although not suspicious in nature, the death remains a puzzling scenario as the apartment was equipped with a working smoke detector that should have alerted anyone within the dwelling of the smokey conditions being created from food left on the stove. Finally, early in the morning just before 5 AM on Tuesday, July 24, Fire and Rescue units responded to a structure fire at 6271 St. Augustine Road, in the Dupont Station strip mall. The entire crew of Station 21 arrived on scene and immediately confirmed that heavy smoke could be seen coming from a restaurant on the property named 'Stella's Pizza.' After forcing entry, it was soon discovered that the rear of the restaurant, where the kitchen was located at, appeared to be the point of origin of the heavy smoke that was now threatening to spread through the ceiling into nearby exposures. This threat, coupled with the ventilation efforts of the roof sector and the potential time factor of the evolution beginning to exceed 20 minutes during this initial attack, soon led Command to issue a second alarm. With over 50 firefighters on scene for this manpower intensive operation, the scene was declared under control after 40 minutes without anything more than smoke damage observed in the adjacent exposures. The cause of the fire is still under investigation with damage estimates pending the final observations from the investigative team at the scene.