June is customarily the annual start of Hurricane Season, with the 2014 'version' of the aforementioned greeted with a bevy of helpful innovations (significant refinement of the JaxReady App and newly coded evacuation zones, to name but a few) created under the guidance of City Hall and our Emergency Preparedness Division.
In the day-to-day operations of Fire/Rescue, Tuesday June 3 introduced yet another heroic Samaritan to the Jacksonville community in the form of a 16 year old teenage boy. As units responded to the report of a structure fire in the 8700 block of Eaton Avenue just before 6:30 AM, the young man (and neighbor) saw smoke pouring from the single story, single family residential structure and rushed to the house to render assistance. Knowing that the woman inside of the home was not only handicapped but also alone, he immediately approached the back window of the rear bedroom and was soon helping the adult female escape from the encroaching flames. The fire was brought under control in 15 minutes by crews on scene, with the woman requiring transport to an area hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Unfortunately the home did sustain extensive damage, with both cause and point of origin under investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Office.
The very next day, Wednesday 4 June and at nearly the exact same hour (around 6:30 AM), units were dispatched to the 3500 block of Townsend Boulevard and more specifically to Apartment 279 at the Eagle Point North Apartments. Heavy smoke had been reported from that location, a fact confirmed by the first arriving units. With all the occupants (thankfully) already safely out of the apartment, the focus at the scene promptly became containment/extinguishment and thereby preventing any extensions from spreading into the attic or adjacent apartment units. After twenty minutes that objective had been met and the incident called under control; sadly though the apartment of the fire's origin sustained sufficient enough damage to necessitate the involvement of the Red Cross for three displaced adults, along with one child as well. No injuries were reported and the initial evaluation of the scene revealed the cause to be a faulty hot water heater within the impacted apartment.
Every day of every year, first responders of the JFRD are exposed to incredibly tragic events impacting citizens from every walk of life in our great community. The impermanence of life, the ethereal and frail existence of our very being along with a litany of other similar philosophical concepts, represent daily companions for the men and women of this Department: the routine confrontation of man's mortality representing a familiar partner for every emergency response. In spite of such inurement, there are some incidents filled with such a magnitude of heartache and horrific tragedy that even the most seasoned veteran will be astounded, an incident of such gravity that it will instantly become a fixture in the lengthy hierarchy of memorable events in the over 100 year history of this Department. Such was the case just before 6 PM on Tuesday, June 17, at a structure fire involving a double-wide trailer in the 12700 block of Palmetto Street in Oceanway. By the time the fire was called under control in just over twenty minutes, 3 children (ages 8 months, 2 and 4 years old and all brothers and sisters) and their respective grandmother (age listed at the time as 'being in her fifties') were all dead, the trailer completely destroyed. With the State Fire Marshal's Office investigating (electrical and/or arson quickly ruled out), JFRD members on scene were left with a visual of mostly tiny, lifeless bodies being extracted from the burning residence: a somber reminder of the fleeting nature of our existence and also a reminder of the incredible significance of our department's mission.