The month begins in resounding fashion as Wednesday, 3 February, will be the day for the ribbon cutting ceremony for the newly refurbished and completely remodeled W-1 Building at the Fire/Rescue Training Academy. A truly impressive undertaking, the structure now features a litany of upgrades, additions and sophisticated features that have completely changed the interior design and capabilities of this main component of the overall compound. Congratulations are certainly in order for all involved who contributed in making this challenging and much needed evolution come to fruition.
Monday afternoon, more specifically the 15th of February and just after 2:30 p.m., several JFRD units were dispatched to the report of a brush fire literally parallel to I-95 south near the county line. Although the fire itself proved to be far from challenging, merely 8 acres of widely dispersed hot spots near the Old St. Augustine exit ramp, the smoke briefly threatened to impact visibility in both directions along the highway as gusty winds violently drove the opaque by-product toward the interstate. Although the fire was called under control in little over an hour, the realization that this year's long, cold winter had produced a vast amount of frost damaged vegetation immediately elevated everyone's level of apprehension about the possibility of an active wildland and brush fire season: this incident potentially serving as the first warning for all emergency responders and members of our community.
At approximately 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 18, units were dispatched to the report of a house fire at 1166 Kings Road. Arriving first on scene, the crews of Ladder and Engine 4 reported heavy fire spewing forth from the front window of a single family, single story home. Performing forcible entry to make way past the burglar bars and re-inforced front door, the primary search soon led to the discovery of an elderly woman, unconscious on the kitchen floor in the back of the house and merely a few steps away from the rear door. After removing the victim from the house and following transport to Shands by Rescue 4, where she was later listed as being in critical but stable condition and breathing on her own, the fire was soon under control and on scene crews set about extinguishing several small hot spots that still remained. An oddity affiliated with this particular response, however, was found in the realization by the B-Shift from Station 4 that they had actually visited this particular house and elderly resident several months ago: for the installation of a smoke detector, the very same device that was more than likely the alarm that alerted the woman to the actual presence of the fire. The crew had therefore, in a roundabout fashion, actually saved the life of the woman 'twice,' a rather unique occurrence in the career of any firefighter.
Fire Station 4 was once again called into action, this time on Tuesday evening just before 10 p.m., when dispatch received a 9-1-1 call from an adult female frantically exclaiming 'my kitchen is on fire.' Arriving at the address in the 1300 block of West Union Street, the crews noted light smoke wisping through a front window of the two story, woodframe house, a structure that would soon be established as a boarding house and the home of several individuals. As the firefighters entered into the home, they discovered an adult female, invalid and weighing several hundred pounds, trapped on her bed as the smoke continued to accumulate throughout her room. The responders quickly moved the entire bed to the window and lifted the mattress, including the patient, halfway through the opening and into the cool late evening air. From there, it required nearly a dozen firefighters to eventually place the woman into Rescue 7, the unit that subsequently transported her to Shands with non-life threatening injuries. The fire itself proved quite a challenge for the responders, as it snaked and crept horizontally along the floor joints from one side of the house to the other, eventually stopped and subdued after close to thirty minutes of tedious work. Investigators soon learned that a heater had been activated in one of the many rooms in the house, leading to a malfunction that literally 'sparked' the fire in question. Red Cross had to be summoned to the scene to provide support for at least 5 displaced adults; thankfully, no serious injuries were reported to either occupants or firefighters at the scene.
The month of February came to an emphatic close Friday afternoon after 4 p.m., as units responded to a structure fire at a daycare facility, 'La Alpha,' located in a stripmall on Soutel Drive near Moncrief Road; the Second Alarm was given as soon as first units arrived on scene. The good news promptly discovered by emergency responders on the fireground concerned the occupants within the heavily involved structure, with all 24 children and seven adults having safely evacuated the building upon witnessing the first sign of billowing smoke. The combat activity to suppress the blaze lasted nearly 90 minutes, with approximately 70 firefighters on hand to ensure that aerial ops, exposure control and, eventually overhaul activities, were all performed as necessary in order to mitigate the event. In spite of a dangerous partial roof collapse occurring during the combat operational period, only one rescue transport was reported from the scene: a woman taken to an area hospital for pre-cautionary observation. The regular performance and practice of fire drills by both staff and children of the daycare facility certainly played a significant role in ensuring that nothing other than property damage was recorded at the fire.