In the wake of Tropical Storm Beryl and the ongoing life safety code issues confronting the Duval County Courthouse, it is certainly understandable how easy it is to forget that the month of June marks the official arrival of the 2012 Hurricane Season. With the aforementioned in mind, the City's recent unveiling of the new 'JaxReady' storm app for smart-phones signifies a true milestone in sophisticated emergency preparedness for any municipal government, anywhere in the nation. Residents are urged to examine the multitude of features and useful applications affixed to this potentially life-saving, technologically remarkable innovation: a free acquisition that can help you and your family be thoroughly prepared for the impact any storm system may have for our area during this year's hurricane season.
Tuesday, June 12th brought about another 'powder run' for our department's HAZMAT Team, with the added twist of coming on the heels of the detonation of a suspicious package by the JSO Bomb Squad. The package was discovered around 8 AM at the corner of West Duval and Laura Street, just underneath the Skyway Express. Although close in proximity to City Hall, the building did not require an evacuation but merely a cautionary removal of all occupants away from the southside section of the building toward the back. With perimeters established and X-Rays inconclusive, the package was detonated revealing a white, powdery substance now scattered about the immediate area of the package's remains. The HAZMAT Team soon arrived and, suited up in Level 'A' suits, entered into the hot zone to begin field testing as per established protocols. With everything from radiation to pH levels returning negative hits, the material was finally collected and delivered to JSO for the routine trip to the State Labratory for more sophisticated testing. At a minimum, a good drill and exercise that was successfully handled by all involved parties.
As is often said, "there may be a Hurricane Season or a Brush Fire Season but it is ALWAYS Structure Fire Season." A reinforcement of that saying occurred at a strip mall located at 1014 Margaret Street, summoning the equivalency of a Second Alarm assignment just after 3:30 AM on Monday, 18 June. The first arriving Engine Company, Engine 5, reported that the smallest section on the end of an 'L'-shaped strip mall was fully involved, with flames blowing out of virtually every conceivable area of what was soon identified as the restaurant known as 'Wasabi Grill.' Housing approximately "half-a-dozen" or so businesses, the omnivorous flames quickly encroached upon the apex area or fulcrum point of the structure where the next victims being lined up were the restaurants 'Hot Wok' and 'Firehouse Subs.' Aided and abetted by a fire wall and properly equipped with several 2 1/2" lines, the well over 40 assembled firefighters quickly went to work and aggressively attacked the blaze, achieving containment 40 minutes after the initial dispatch. As hot spots were being addressed during the faint pre-dawn light, the first post-incident assessment revealed the complete destruction of the entire area of origin, with a partial roof collapse promptly rendering the aforementioned section structurally unsafe. That fact would serve as an annoying impediment to the investigative duties of the State Fire Marshal's Office, significantly interfering with that agency's ability to immediately begin the process of sifting through the charred debris in search of all pertinent clues. Nevertheless, initial damage estimates approached one million dollars with each business establishment sustaining varying degrees of smoke, water and fire damage. The good news, however, was the fact that the elongated section of the strip mall was spared from the ravages of the blaze and business was expected to be restored to some form of normalcy within a reasonable timeframe.
The month of June has decided to leave us in the same way it was introduced: with the visit of a tropical storm. This time it was Tropical Storm Debby, arriving in earnest on Monday June 25 and drenching the region with torrential rain bordering on the stereotypical 'biblical proportion.' Parts of our area recorded rainfall of 12 inches or more during the nearly three days of soggy activity. Once again, many websites have great in-depth coverage of the activity complete with jaw-dropping pictures of localized flooding.