Congratulations are in order for Engineer Thomas 'Pat' Copeman, the recipient of the 2011 Stichway Award or, as it was once known, recognition as the 'Firefighter of the Year' for the Jacksonville Fire/Rescue Department. In a ceremony held Friday evening, 2 March at the Union Hall of Local #122 on Stockton Street, Engineer Copeman of Engine 7 - "B" was recognized for his heroic actions at the scene of a tanker truck explosion in St. Augustine on August 19 of last year. While off-duty and assisting a friend move furniture, Copeman heard an explosion and saw a huge plume of black smoke climb skyward merely a few blocks away from his location. Runnning toward the vicinity of the commotion, Copeman came upon a gas station where a tanker truck had been off-loading fuel when a sudden explosion and subsequent fire transformed the scene into a horrific carnage of flying debris, heat, opaque smoke coupled with ardent flames and the driver of the rig, trapped and unable to move away from the pernicious environment. Copeman quickly organized a few bystanders in his rescue effort to remove the injured male from the scene and, succeeding in doing so, quickly turned his attention to both initial patient assessment and general on scene safety until the arrival of dispatched emergency crews. Copeman's actions undeniably reflect the highest of professional standards including exceptional courage and strength of character; attributes regularly ascribed to those firefighters not only receiving the honor of a Bronze Medal of Bravery but also the highest accolade available, the Joseph F. Stichway Award. Congratulations again, Pat!
March is also the time when we leap forward into Daylight Savings time, this year on Sunday 11 March, and the usual reminder for everyone to check the operational readiness of all residential smoke detectors. The aforementioned is, naturally, contingent on the presence of that life-saving device in the home so make sure you actually do have a smoke detector and, if not, please contact 630-CITY to qualify for a free smoke detector complete with installation.
A culinary landmark along Heckscher Drive survived a terrifying ordeal on Saturday, 10 March, as the Sand Dollar restaurant caught fire requiring the concerted efforts of over 40 firefighters to prevent the structure from being completely destroyed. With lunch service at its peak just after 12:30 that day, kitchen staff suddenly noticed heavy smoke pouring forth from one of the fryers in the kitchen. Within seconds, wait staff began ushering customers out of the restaurant. The first due engine company from Station 40 soon arrived on scene and immediately witnessed flames shooting out of the front kitchen window accompanied by heavy black clouds of smoke swirling about in strong wind gusts easily exceeding 20 mph. The initial fire soon advanced through the interior ceiling, spreading throughout most of the attic area and, in what would be visually captured by several bystanders equipped with camera-phones, eventually erupting through the structure's crow nest at the top of the roof in a dramatic display of tumultuous flames. Interior crews, advancing several inch-and-three-quarter lines, bravely halted the forward progress of the fire while continuously encountering hidden threats behind every section of removed ceiling. Exterior attack prominently included the use of Ladder 30's aerial to facilitate the loft required by firefighters to attack the visible fire along the crow's nest, an effort again utilizing suppression lines that soon resulted in the successful completion of this operational objective. After nearly 90 minutes Command called the situation under control, with this venerable restaurant of over 7,000 square feet of wood (and more wood!) surviving the threat yet still sustaining serious damage estimated in excess of $300,000.
The unusual and rarely seen 2nd Alarm residential structure fire was on tap just before 1:30 PM on Monday, 26 March, when units were dispatched to 2648 Beauclerc Road following a 9-1-1 call indicating smoke could be seen from a house at the aforementioned address. As Engine 51 - 'A' arrived on scene the crew confirmed that heavy fire was visible from a section of roof of the three-car garage, an affixed component of a capacious, well over 4,000 square foot brick two-story home. Flames were apparently driving forward from the equivalent of a breezeway between the garage and main house, advancing rapidly through the attic space and visibly breaching through the roof. With a prolonged operation quite apparent, Command requested additional resources in the form of a Second Alarm within twenty minutes of the suppression efforts, with the fire eventually subdued after approximately 45 minutes of concerted effort. Damage estimates to the multi-million dollar property were quickly placed within the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the fire soon classified as suspicious: an eye-witness report indicating an individual had been observed fleeing from the scene.