Congratulations to all recently promoted firefighters for that quarterly period receiving recognition during our department's ceremony on Tuesday, August 11.
On Wednesday, August 12, at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, units received a dispatch to a structure fire in the 3700 block of Ortega Boulevard. Ladder 10, responding from their station on McDuff, reported heavy smoke visible from their vantage point on the Ortega Bridge while still enroute. It came therefore as no surprise to Engine 23, first on scene, that the structure in question had considerable flames already shooting through the roof upon arriving at the address. What did come as a surprise to the aforementioned crew and all subsequent responders was the size, overall magnitude and fireload encountered at the incident in this historic residential area. A three story, single family hart pine wood construction home encompassing well over 5,000 square feet and situated on over an acre of land, was fully involved following an accident during an exterior paint stripping operation. Apparently contractors working on the home had attempted to strip paint on the second floor by using some heating device, such as a torch or heat gun, and the subsequent fire rapidly spread upward and horizontally along the third floor converted attic space. Command soon issued a Second Alarm assignment, as the heat conditions coupled with the enormous fire on hand demanded additional resources. Water pressure from the existing hydrants proved shoddy, as the massive fire volume had led to an abandonment of interior attacks and initiation of an all-out defensive posture: unfortunately, Ladder 31's aerial proved too much of a challenge for a water main that is prepared to support a residential fire response, not a commercial environment. For all intents and purposes, the assembled firefighters were facing a large 'hotel fire' in the middle of a residential district. With distances to hydrants and corresponding equipment preparation, available water pressure, advanced stage of fire progression upon arrival, and the size of the property and structure as well as the latter's construction material all representing a formidable challenge, it became quite apparent that the building itself would not survive such an unprecedented onslaught from such a multitude of obstacles. After nearly three hours of a mixture of individual and combination attack strategies involving aerial, deck gun, monitor and large diameter hose assault, Command issued an 'under control' message to the relief of the massive contingent of first responders on scene. Even the most seasoned veterans of firefighting could not recall a residential structure fire in the history of the Department that required 3-plus hours before being called 'under control.' With damages well in excess of $1 million, as the home was deemed a total loss, firefighters began the lengthy process of securing personal items from the home as well as the typical pursuit and extinguishment of hot spots throughout the massive, now roofless, structure. No injuries were reported from the scene: however, that good news could not detract from the fact that a true historic landmark of Ortega had been lost on this hot August afternoon.
On Monday, August 24, the official first day of school in our city, units responded to the report of a multiple vehicle accident near the intersection of St. John's Bluff and Beach Boulevard just before 1:30 in the afternoon. Although an actual MCI Level 1 protocol was initiated for the 5 patients at the scene, injuries proved non-life threatening and 3 patients (including one pediatric) were transported to Shands, with the other two having Memorial as the destination. One thing this incident immediately made clear to all first responders: an increase in overall levels of traffic can be expected now that school is back in session and, with it, the potential for a greater frequency or volume of traffic accidents.