Another year has arrived and with it, promptly, another round of frigid weather. As a result it also didn't take long for the first residential structure fires of the new year to occur that could be potentially attributed to space heater or fireplace use. Although, thankfully, the vast majority of these incidents were 'relatively' uneventful, one such home fire that managed to create headlines locally occurred on Tuesday, 3 January just before 9 a.m. on a blustery and exceptionally cold morning. When firefighters arrived on scene in the 1200 block of Willow Court in Avondale, they discovered a two story single family residence with heavy smoke billowing out from every front window on the ground floor, along with fire and smoke visible in the back and eastern-side area of the entire house. Further compounding the dramatic magnitude of this visual was the presence of a young, adult male standing in front of the house and screaming 'my father is inside!' With the usual aplomb and alacrity, the first arriving crews went into action as firefighters from Ladder 4, Engine 5 and Engine 17 entered into the fiery home to search for the trapped adult. Courageously maneuvering about the flames and smoke, the emergency responders soon located the adult male near a window in a bedroom on the second floor, a small dog also nearby. Both were quickly removed from the deleterious environment, with the male victim transported to Shands by Rescue 17 with life-threatening injuries. The dog was successfully treated on scene and the entire event was called under control by Command in just under 25 minutes. Tragically, another pet dog was subsequently discovered in an upstairs bathroom in the aftermath of the operation. Neither cause nor point of origin were immediately discernible, with damages both excessive and well above $150,000.
A busy 72 hours for the Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department occurred during the Martin Luther King holiday weekend this year. Just before midnight on Sunday, 15 January, units were dispatched to both a familiar address and situation: fire and heavy smoke visible from the 'old' (nearly 100 years) Annie Lytle school! With smoke columns rising to the interstate ramp nearby, Command had traffic halted while firefighters initially dealt with the difficulty of maneuvering hoselines around boarded-up windows and side doors. Eventually any interior action entertained was rescinded after ladder pipes were set up that soon had the dramatically visible fireball subdued. It took the State Fire Marshal's office less than 24 hours to determine and officially announce that the fire was the result of arson, with the culprit(s) yet to be indentified or apprehended. Thankfully, no injuries were reported from the incident.
Later that day, just before noon, firefighters were dispatched to the apartment complex known as Bishop's Court at Windsor Parke, located off Hodges Boulevard, for a report of flames and smoke shooting out of a window on a second floor unit. Although capable of rapidly attacking the fire, actually bringing it under control in less than 15 minutes, firefighters were unable to prevent tragedy from striking the two occupants inside the residence: an adult male and his dog. The male was transported to Shands hospital in critical condition and died a short time later at the facility, while the dog was the recipient of desperate resuscitation efforts by on scene firefighters, all to no avail. The investigation was not able to immediately determine the cause of the fire.
Then on January 16, shortly after 8:30 p.m., Fire/Rescue Communications received a frantic 9-1-1 call indicating that a residence in the 7500 block of Fawn Lake Drive South was on fire, with an elderly woman possibly still trapped inside. Engine 154 arrived on scene and discovered a single story, single family residence with heavy fire and thick smoke engulfing most of the front of the home. The crew immediately forced entry into the house and, joined by firefighters from Ladder 44, began to work their way through the turbulent surroundings to locate the putative victim inside. Tragically, the responders soon discovered the lifeless body of an elderly woman on the floor in the kitchen, with the victim eventually pronounced dead at the scene following her removal from the interior. The fire itself was called under control in less than 10 minutes with investigators from the State along with JSO's Homicide Unit summoned to the scene to participate in the subsequent investigation.
It's not every day that members of the JFRD encounter a residential structure fire that turns into a Second Alarm, but that is exactly what transpired Thursday evening, 19 January, just after 7:30 p.m. Firefighters arrived on scene at 8602 Cathedral Oaks Place West and discovered flames and heavy smoke along the front entrance area of an enormous, over 10,000 square foot multi-million dollar mansion located directly along the St. John's River. With that incredible size, basically removing the conventional label of 'residence' and becoming a flat out structure fire (more akin to a warehouse) coupled with the considerable amount of fire encountered, it didn't take long for Command to issue a Second Alarm to summmon additional and much needed firefighters to the scene. The focused efforts and speedy response of the assembled crews soon prevented the fire from spreading into the attic via a void, and the fire was called under control in just under 45 minutes. The point of origin was officially confirmed as the butler's pantry/laundry room on the ground floor in direct proximity to the entrance, and structural damage estimates exceeded $200,000 with additional untold dollars worth of destruction done to the interior and corresponding contents.