Although both a new year and a new month have arrived, the nature of incident response seems to have remained virtually unchanged from the previous month and old year: unseasonably cold temperatures with an indirectly related residential structure fire. Case in point: Monday 3 January at 10:30 PM, with units summoned to 11585 Alexis Forest Drive near Greenland Road in Mandarin. First-in Engine 154 reported a huge, orange glowing fireball engulfing virtually all of a single story, stucco and wood frame house. Luckily, the only occupants of the home were already outside of the house as the crew arrived on scene, with the adult male in need of prompt medical attention. As additional units began to arrive, the flames continued to consume the home, bursting through the roof while also threatening a nearby exposure, another single story house no more than ten feet away. With the sound of exploding tires from the two cars parked in the driveway of the burning structure echoing through the night, Command quickly had Ladder 44 set up her aerial and douse the flames while keeping the fire from spreading any further, as large handlines were additionally utilized to achieve deliberate confinement and, ultimately, complete extinguishment. The adult male received ground transport to Shands with serious injuries, with the original request for air transport rescinded due to heavy fog. The other two occupants, an adult female and female pediatric patient, were also taken to Shands but with minor injuries. The subsequent investigation revealed that the male had started a fire in the fireplace with the assistance of a flammable liquid, more than likely gasoline, and was soon confronted by an out of control blaze that spread throughout the living room, igniting the nearby Christmas tree in the process. From there the flames rapidly consumed everything in sight and, had it not been for the courageous actions of the male in protecting his family, the outcome of this incident would have been most assuredly far more tragic than the 'mere' loss of the home.
Thursday, January 6, and once again the Department is forced to deal with yet another Second Alarm: the third in less than 40 days. The response was directed toward the Flea Market in the 11000 block of Beach Boulevard after 7 PM, with reports indicating that heavy black smoke could be seen spewing forth from one of the rows containing numerous stalls utilized by the vendors at the site. Although no injuries were reported in the aftermath of the well over an hour long struggle to extinguish the blaze, the damage estimates in the hundreds of thousands of dollars meant that a tremendous amount of inventory had been lost to the smoke, water and general fire activity at the scene. The State Fire Marshal's office subsequent investigation determined that the fire had occurred due to an electrical problem, more than likely an overloaded electrical outlet at one of the stall locations.
Perhaps this event will finally represent the epilogue to an incredible several weeks of heightened activity for the Department's first responders: another Second Alarm(!), this time 'The Waterford' apartment complex located at 8401 Southside Boulevard. It was there where emergency crews assembled shortly after 3 AM on Wednesday, January 12, a bitterly cold, frigid pre-dawn period showcasing a two story apartment building that was fully involved upon the arrival of the first dispatched firefighters. With flames already stretching skyward through the roof on the far west side of Building 2, a structure that contained a grand total of 16 individual apartments, Command promptly recognized that the four outermost units would most assuredly be lost. With the immediate information made available that all occupants of the entire structure were safely outside, and not just from those apartments engulfed in fire, the order was given to position lines at the first firewall and ensure that a stand would be made at that spot. It didn't take long for the structural integrity of the impacted side of the building, including the breezeway area, to become suspect so that a retreat had to be given and Ladder 44's aerial ordered into operation. That action not only suppressed a significant amount of fire volume but also enabled the increased, 2nd Alarm assignment to position handlines around strategic areas and re-enter the fray after the shutdown of the ladder pipe. With the firewall holding steady and the specific, targeted handlines suffocating the fire, the incident was called under control after slightly more than an hour. The reward visible at once was undeniably the realization that half of the apartments were completely unfazed by the events, with four others sustaining various levels of damage and only the first four, fully involved apartments considered a total loss. That coupled with the reports of no injuries to anyone on the fireground or beyond represented the extent of the positive developments; the aforementioned tapered by the revelation that one dog had perished in the fire and damage estimates would easily exceed $250,000. The discovery made by investigators that a candle carelessly placed outside overnight onto a wooden balcony, igniting several plants found there, eventually added to the general finality of the event; an ending that also included the need for the Red Cross to provide assistance for 14 displaced individuals.