The month of June is, as most people know, the start of hurricane season and typically represents a prompt and heightened interest in the activities of the department's Emergency Preparedness Division. The first week of June 2010 was no different, although this time around the communitywide awareness of the Emergency Preparedness Division was not related to the start of the 2010 storm season. Instead, the focus and interest was found with a select group of seasoned veterans from the EOC, including the Division Chief of Emergency Preparedness Marty Senterfitt, departing for the State EOC in Tallahassee on Thursday, June 3 for a very special mission. Their objective, generally speaking, is to lend a hand and support the command component dealing with the ongoing oil slick and cleanup crisis threatening the entire Gulf Coast and, more specifically, deliver much needed relief to the personnel who have been staffing the EOC for over 30 uninterrupted days. Their actions and participation will also provide the team with an opportunity to receive valuable training and skill-set reassessment for this year's hurricane season and beyond; a sidebar that everyone back home will benefit from.
An unusual event, unusual in as much as the frequency of this emergency response is certainly not on par with others, occurred Monday afternoon, June 7. HAZMAT 21 was dispatched to the 3800 block of Crown Point Road to investigate a 9-1-1 caller's claim of receiving an envelope in the mail that contained a white 'powdery substance' that resulted in the recipient's prompt feeling of nausea. Following several field tests and results that could not completely rule out any and all toxicity affiliated with the product, the substance was double-bagged and sent to the lab at the Department of Health for more sophisticated testing. The individual exposed to the product was transported to an area hospital and subsequently released later that day. The resulting lab tests performed on the substance revealed no toxic elements of any kind to be present, however, the exact determination of the nature of the product was still inconclusive pending the outcome from additional testing.
Tragedy struck on Friday, June 11, at an incident that began with passengers in a vehicle heading along Heckscher Drive suddenly noticing a man near the shore of the river frantically waving his arms. Upon stopping, these Good Samaritans could see another person, an adult female, trapped in the mud a good 100 yards away from the shoreline. Although one of the passengers, a 16 year old male, managed to make his way to the woman along with the man who had initially signaled for help, it proved too little, too late: the lifeless body was now face down in the damp mud. When emergency response arrived on scene, Engineer Tom Saffer of Tanker 40 quickly hooked up a utility line on shore and made his way to the victim using two backboards as a make-shift bridge, placing one in front and moving onto that board, then reaching back to the now vacated board and placing that one in front and so on. Eventually mitigation of the incident was complete, as the arrival of the Special Ops Team brought about the necessary supply of plywood needed to build a bridge for easier access out to the scene and back to the shoreline. The adult male was transported for pre-cautionary reasons to Shands, with the cause of death for the adult female still unknown pending the outcome of the autopsy.
Later that evening, heavy thunderstorms ripped through the north and northwest parts of the city; in a span of 15 minutes 4 separate residential structure fires were reported, all resulting from lightning strikes. These were all quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported, with yet another fire reported later that evening in the Springfield area: again, lightning the culprit but fortunately to a vacant structure and also brought under control in no time at all.
A slew of arson fires damaging several vehicles in the north-west quadrant of the city culminated with a suspicious house fire early Saturday morning, June 26. As firefighters arrived at the address, 3658 Lydia Estates Terrace just off Dunn Avenue, they could see heavy smoke and flames pouring out of an attached garage from the over 3,000 square foot two story home. As the crews braved the intense heat and heavy fireload and began making their way with attack lines through the interior of the home, flames began to seep out of ridge vents on the back section of the roof. With the threat of the fire spreading through the entire attic becoming a distinct possibility with every passing second, the assembled firefighters made one last forceful and deliberate charge and succeeded in bringing the fire under control. The 40 odd firefighters at the scene had limited the damages to the home to just over $100,000 and reported no injuries to anyone on the fireground, but soon discovered that this fire, too, had been the work of an arsonist: the point of origin a pile of clothes in the garage that had been doused with an accelerant and subsequently set on fire. This incident, coupled with the vehicle fires, all occurred within a relatively small radius from one another and prompted the State Fire Marshal's Office to begin gathering all evidence needed in order to apprehend a possible serial arsonist.
Tuesday morning, June 29, a fire alarm from the Madison Manor apartment complex located at 7400 Hogan Road quickly led to a Second Alarm response for this community comprised of elderly residents. As fire and rescue units arrived on scene, apartments were being evacuated and the residents, some merely clad in bathrobes, began to assemble in the parking lot. Engines 20 and 12 soon had discovered that the visible smoke was coming from an apartment unit on the first floor and, more specifically and upon further examination, a mattress that had accidentally caught on fire. With the cause identified and unceremoniously extinguished, salvage and overhaul took center stage as the apartment and hallway area had over 2 inches of standing water as a result of the sprinkler system activation. The medical sector established on scene reported no issues with any of the elderly residents, and the mattress fire that had led to the emergency response was soon attributed to careless smoking.