This month will mark yet another installment of our periodic 'Recruit Graduation Ceremony,' albeit with an unusual twist: the ceremony for Recruit Class 208 will be held at the Wilson Center for the Performing Arts at the south campus of FCCJ. The decor and ambience of that facility will greatly enhance the landmark experience known as graduation, as experienced in the young careers and seen through the eyes of these new recruits.
Meanwhile on the emergency response front, Wednesday morning August 6 witnessed units dispatched to the report of a gas odor at the intersection of Pearl and Ashley. The HAZMAT team soon discovered that a 2 inch gas line underneath a manhole cover was leaking a considerable amount of product into the atmosphere, necessitating a complete shutdown of Pearl Street between Beaver to the north and Church to the south. After nearly four hours of intense work performed jointly with TECO, the lines were purged and the situation brought under control, thus enabling the experts from TECO to begin with the necessary repair work. No evacuations were required but traffic patterns were significantly altered within that area for the duration of the response.
Monday, August 18, saw the arrival of two significant events: first of all, Fire Station 5 officially began to move into their new quarters, marking the end of a truly remarkable and historical timeframe of firefighting out of the old station on 347 Riverside Avenue and, the second noteworthy occurrence, our Emergency Operations Center initiated a Level II for the first time this year (actually the first activation of any kind for this year's Hurricane Season) as Tropical Storm Fay began to meander through our lovely Sunshine State. Regardless of just how severe 'Fay' turns out to be, this activation will certainly represent a good test of both the mobilization and organizational objectives of all necessary EOC resources and affiliated components.
After several days (more specifically, Wednesday August 20th through Saturday, August 23rd) of being pelted by wind and rain, especially the latter (to the tune of 6 to 12 inches of precipitation throughout Duval County), the city and our Fire/Rescue Department can finally bid 'adieu' to Tropical Storm Fay. The extensive media coverage of the event need not be regurgitated here, but suffice to say the Department garnered well deserved accolades for the performance of all personnel involved in preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. Congratulations!
Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Fay did leave behind plenty of flooded streets, downed wires and trees, and a few unexpected surprises that would only be revealed well after the fact and after the storm's departure. An example of the aforementioned occurred Monday, the 25th of August, as units responded to the report of a roof collapse in a condo development near Gate Parkway known as Point Meadows Place. Several 4 story tall buildings, with each floor housing ten 2 or 3 bedroom units, were scheduled for roof repair or replacement work following a freak hailstorm back in June, with the roof conditions certainly worsened following Fay's impact. For that purpose the roofing contractor had begun to place the appropriate materials, such as packets of heavy roofing shingles and assorted items, on the roof of Building 1 within the compound. As afternoon storms pulled through the area, still slight remnants and/or the spawn of Fay, the added water weight coupled with the pre-existing load placed along the I-Beam of the building proved too heavy for continued support. The roof collapsed, creating a 15 by 30 foot 'skylight' in the building, with debris crashing down onto a hallway separating several condo units from one another. Following an extensive primary search, emergency responders were relieved to discover that noone was trapped, with a negative report on injuries as well. Sadly, strucutural engineers dispatched to the scene deemed the building unsafe for continued occupancy and the Red Cross was needed in order to provide assistance to the many displaced families. Firefighters re-entered the building though, several times, the first of which was to retrieve pets that had been left in the units by homeowners away at work: upwards of seven dogs and cats had to be extricated from their respective plight and were soon joyously reunited with their owners. After removing those roofing materials that still posed a threat to the firefighters on scene, crews re-entered the building yet again, this time to check through the debris in the hallway to ensure that noone was trapped and to extract items from the condos that the displaced individuals needed through the night, such as medicine or car keys. Despite the tragic nature of the incident, a silver lining or two became immediately evident as no injuries were recorded to either firefighters of civilians throughout the entire ordeal, and the structure itself...well, repair work will most assuredly commence at once!