Once again, a lack of rain and the typically windy conditions for this time of the year all along the First Coast has led to a favorable environment for brush fires. Case in point: an extremely stubborn, aggravating and bothersome brush fire, less than 10 acres within the southside area along Beach and Peach. Although relatively non-threatening to residential exposures, the smoke riddled area within a completely inaccessable, water-logged section of unattended brush proved to be quite a challenge for the assembled firefighters who arrived on scene late Tuesday afternoon, 3 May. By Thursday morning, 5 May, the majority of the multiple fire heads had been contained but sporadic hot spot activity still continued to smolder along every now and then, a nuisance mandating a repeat performance of suppression activity by the annoyed firefighters. With nary a storm system in sight, it appears that it will be quite some time before the threat of brush fires can be abated.
The relief delivered to parched vegetation by the first significant rainfall in quite some time, more specifically on Saturday, 14 May, also included the dreaded high, gusty winds and threat of lightning that can also accompany these volatile spring storm systems. On the aforementioned date during the early afternoon hours, the storm's high winds caused a tree to topple onto a residence in the 12300 block of Yellow Bluff Road. Thankfully the incident did not seriously injury anyone inside of the home, although a child did barely escape the dangerous predicament and required transport to an area hospital after sustaining minor injuries. The Red Cross was needed in order to deliver assistance for seven displaced individuals, with the damage to the home quite substantial in that area directly impacted by the fallen tree. This incident served as a reminder that even though one threat may become somewhat abated through the assistance of Mother Nature, in this case the immediate threat of brush fires, it may suddenly be replaced by a different kind of emergency necessitating yet another prompt response from our city's finest providers of public safety.
At approximately 2:15 AM, Wednesday 25 May, units were dispatched to the "Palms" apartment complex located at 11990 Beach Boulevard. The initial reports indicated that an apartment fire near a water heater in apartment unit 113, on the first floor of Building 11, was responsible for a heavy volume of smoke pouring out of the aforementioned dwelling. The first arriving units quickly confirmed the presence of a significant amount of smoke, with Command rapidly mandating a complete evacuation of the entire building resulting in 15 individual apartments and affiliated families being temporarily displaced. As firefighters worked to locate the exact seat of the fire, Command issued a Second Alarm to bring sufficient resources to the scene as the fire itself soon proved to be quite elusive, indicating a potentially lengthy duration for the entire operational period. As crews began to break and pull apart walls and ceilings, it became apparent that the 'enemy' had managed to sneak into voids, with specific fire activity along the wiring in the concealed floor space emerging quite prominently once exposed. Soon fans were deliberately activated to showcase any additional hidden hot spots requiring attention, with the entire incident called under control just 30 minutes following the initial arrival of the first crews on scene. Red Cross was needed to provide assistance to two families displaced following the ordeal, specifically the original apartment unit where the problem was first noted and another apartment located directly above on the second floor, but without any serious injuries reported from the scene and considering the potential the scenario possessed in becoming a major conflagration, the operation was most assuredly a successful one.