This month, it is once again time to 'fall back' and reset our time-pieces by dropping back one hour and, as usual, time to also check and replace the batteries of all smoke detectors in our homes. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends that homeowners perform this function at least twice a year and has utilized the 'back and forth' periods involving daylight savings time as the perfect occasion for promoting these checks throughout the nation. Recent statistics released by the aforementioned agency indicate that each year 8 of 10 fire deaths in the United States occur in the perceived safety of the home. With that in mind, replace your batteries this month and remember to periodically remove dust and dirt from the device, check the detector for performance regularly and, if needed, call 630 - CITY (2489) to have a free smoke detector installed in your home.
On Thursday November 1st, just before 12:30 p.m., units were summoned to the report of a structure fire in a single family, single story home located at 4026 Harbor View Drive. Upon arrival, firefighters were met by two adults, one a female the other a male, who frantically pointed at an area at the front of the house; an area that by now had thick black clouds of smoke exiting the front window. The two continued to anxiously explain to the first responders that their female roommate was trapped inside of that area, more specifically a front bedroom. Firefighters quickly entered into the home and tried to open the door to the bedroom, but couldn't move it and were forced to remove the door off its hinges: that particular action revealed the lifeless body of the female on the floor directly behind the door. The combined crews of Engine 24 and Ladder 34 quickly extinguished the fire, but all help for the trapped female came too late and she was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene. Although the investigation is still underway to determine the cause of the fire, two facts were immediately evident: for one, the home was equipped with a smoke detector, but further examination of the device revealed that it was inoperable as no batteries were present. The other fact proved to be that the point of origin was most assuredly the front bedroom where the victim had been trapped, as the rest of the house was relatively free from smoke and fire damage. This fire fatality represented the 9th of the year for the city.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 7, JFRD units were dispatched to the report of a structure fire at 1567 West 25th, with additional information of someone trapped inside. Units arriving were informed that a 5 year old girl was last seen in a back bedroom in the home, a structure that was now fully involved with heavy smoke and flame pouring out of the front windows, front door, and entire front porch area. The crews from Ladder 18 and Engine 9 immediately initiated appropriate primary search protocols and soon located the young child, in serious condition, in the aforementioned rear bedroom area. Rescue 7 began applicable life-saving measures, managed to restore a pulse, and transported the child to Shands. The cause of the fire was soon attributed to an electrical problem with a deep freezer, located on the front porch area, with the child's mother describing several bright sparks coming from that vicinity before the fire was noted.
Station 18 was soon called into action again, this time in the early morning hours on Friday, November 9, when 9-1-1 dispatchers received an emergency call from within a house located at 1272 West 22nd Street, just a few blocks south of Fire Station 18. The caller, an elderly man, exclaimed that his house was filled with heavy smoke and fire was bursting out through the front windows of his bedroom. Upon arrival, Station 18's crews approached both the front and back doors to force entry and Ladder 18, after removing the burglar bar door in the rear of the home, discovered the victim immediately in the vicinity of the aforementioned door, on the floor. The fire, primarily confined to the front bedroom, was quickly extinguished; the elderly gentleman was transported to Shands by Rescue 32 who picked up the run as that unit happened to be in the area at the time. In the hospital, the victim explained to investigators that he knew his space heater had been too close to his blankets on the bed and admitted that he 'should have known better.'
A less fortunate outcome in response to a structure fire occurred Sunday afternoon shortly after 1 p.m., when units responding to the report of a mobile home fire arrived at 8065 McGlothin Street and discovered an approximately 70 foot trailer almost completely engulfed in flame and thick, heavy black smoke. The fire was so intense that it had already vented through the front walls of the home, consuming a front porch area in the process. Neighbors had made the emergency call after hearing a smoke detector alarm go off, followed by what can only be desribed as 'small explosions.' As the fire was being extinguished, the crew from Engine 22 made a macabre discovery during their secondary search: a fatality in what was 'formerly' the living room area. Although much circumstantial information and many eye witness accounts were available at the scene, the damage to the structure and severe disfigurement of the body prevented any immediate and definitive conclusion from taking place, including a positive identification of the victim or even an assessment as to gender or age.
Monday, November 26th at approximately 3 a.m., units were dispatched to a strip mall fire at 4930 Soutel Drive, an assignment that was almost immediately upgraded to a Second Alarm by Command upon hearing the words 'heavy smoke showing' from the first arriving crew, Engine 24. The primary location of the activity within this setting, J.P.'s Sports Cafe, was fully involved with the adjacent stores representing exposures in need of prompt relief. The arriving crews soon fanned out in each direction of the complex to control the aforementioned exposures and cut off any advancement of the fire, while forcible entry allowed for an aggressive interior attack to eventually subdue the flames after about 20 minutes of intense action. The investigators summoned to the scene noted that the entire structure had been locked, both front and back and including all the stores in the strip mall, with the greatest depth of char observed in the attic space immediately above the establishment. Based upon these observations and other pieces of evidence gained at the scene, a ruling that the fire was accidental in nature, possibly due to an electrical malfunction, was soon reached and damages listed at just above $150,000.