Tragically, the very first day of the new month began with the loss of a life within our community following an early morning house fire on Friday, 1 March. As firefighters arrived on scene in the 2200 block of Jadestone Street just after 4 AM, an area of town near St. John's Bluff and Sandalwood, they were confronted by a raging fire consuming one side of a duplex. With the typically aggressive approach that is the trademark of local suppression initiatives, the fire was subdued and called under control in a very short time; but time had unfortunately run out for the sole occupant, an adult male, who was found dead in the vicinity of a rear bedroom. Although no immediate cause could be determined, the fact that the remnants of a space heater were located in close proximity to the point of origin of the fire did allow for a qualified level of supposition and speculation.
Later that evening a Second Alarm fire at a venerable Jacksonville establishment, 57 Heaven, a landmark nighclub of our city for some 27 years, forced firefighters to perform at their best in order to ensure the structure would not be lost. At approximately 9 PM crews arrived on scene and noted flames spiraling some twenty-odd feet into the air from the roof of the popular venue, with the good news immediately relayed that all patrons were out of the building. Careful and focused suppression measures, especially important considering the lengthy exposure to heat faced by the truss roof construction of the building, soon paid off as the fire was called under control in just over half-an-hour. Although damages to both the interior and exterior were present, a considerable amount of memorabilia and unique artifacts making up the decor of the club were salvaged, much to the ownership's glee and amazement. No injuries were reported from the incident and the initial focus of the investigation into the cause of the fire was in the direction of a, possibly, malfunctioning neon sign.
A pre-dawn apartment fire that led to the dispatch of a Second Alarm assignment occurred Wednesday morning, 20 March in the 4100 block of Crownwood Drive. First arriving companies noted heavy fire in the rear of the 2 story, end unit apartment with the threat of flames spreading into the attic adding yet more anxiety to the proceedings. Although one person was home, the individual was able to exit the apartment in the proverbial nick of time. Firefighters on scene were soon able to prevent the fire from spreading into any additional apartments, and the entire situation was called under control after nearly 30 minutes of aggressive fire suppression. No injuries were reported from the scene, however both Sheriff's Office and State Fire Marshal representatives were summoned to the scene as graffiti painted on the garage door of the residence contained a racial slur within the message, immediately prompting a criminal investigation into the incident.